Jessica Lagrange Interiors LLC

The True Payoffs Of Expo Chicago + SAIC’s Alumni Show

With prices that can top six figures, artworks by Jeff Koons, Tony Lewis, Wu Tsang, Rashid Johnson and Angel Otero are out-of-reach—even for many buyers with big budgets. But here’s a sweet irony: all of these art-stars were once students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). That means they probably sold their work at SAIC’s student shows, and in Chicago galleries or venues for emerging artists, at far more accessible prices. All this comes to mind because two of the most paramount art shows in the U.S.—Expo Chicago and SAIC’s Alumni Exhibition—are both taking place in Chicago the third week of September. 

These three oil paint skins on resin-coated canvas are by SAIC alum  Angel Otero, who is best known for his process-based paintings and represented by Lehmann Maupin. Photos: Lehmann Maupin

If we’d only realized the potential of these art stars then! Of course, that’s why we never miss Expo Chicago, our city’s world-renowned annual international show for contemporary and modern art. It takes place Sept. 17th-20th at Navy Pier, with the opening night party, Vernissage, on Sept. 17th benefitting the Museum of Contemporary Art. And SAIC is breaking new ground with an epic show at the same time to commemorate its 150th anniversary alumni exhibition, “Civilization and Its Discontents: SAIC Alumni Exhibition, Selections from 1985-2015,” at the Sullivan Galleries (33 S. State St.), with its official opening on Sept. 18th.  It’s amazing to realize the school has such long-lived Chicago roots.

This year, Expo Chicago at Navy Pier will feature works from 140 galleries representing 16 counties and 47 cities. Shown here is a shot from 2014. Photo: Expo Chicago

Both shows are about much more than buying art in Chicago. They are opportunities for us to discover emerging talent, new ideas and art trends—all especially important in our luxury interior design practice. Expo Chicago’s opening night on Sept. 17, with its triple play of a stunning setting, stunning art and stunning people, is Chicago’s most visually dazzling party of the year. And the official reception for SAIC’s alumni show the next night, Sept. 18 is free to the public and may be equally intriguing considering who’s in the show, and the fact that it’s curated by artists Scott and Tyson Reeder. The brothers are both SAIC faculty members and alums, but also accomplished and famed artists in their own right.

Remarkable eye candy is the rule at Expo Chicago, which expects to top last year’s attendance of 32,500. Photo: Michigan Avenue magazine

Of course, the lesson learned here is that shows such as these are treasure hunts of the highest order—for us, as luxury interior designers, but also for all. While much of the art at Expo Chicago and the SAIC’s Alumni Exhibition, which will focus on graduates from the last three decades, is going to be pricy, there may still be deals and steals to be had, discoveries to be made and lessons to be learned about buying art in Chicago. It takes looking at these shows with curiosity and awareness.

Now one of the most important artists of our time, SAIC alum Rashid Johnson is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery. Shown here is his Self-Portrait as the black Jimmy Connors in the finals of the New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club Summer Tennis Tournament. Photo: SAIC

But the true draw of epic art shows, and Expo Chicago is the kingpin of such events, is the attention it focuses on Chicago’s remarkable art scene and the importance of art. Expo Chicago does the job with exceptional programming, ranging from collection tours to lectures. We owe these opportunities to Tony Karman, who not only heads Expo, he resuscitated it in 2012 after organizers pulled the plug on Art Chicago in 2011, which started here in 1980 and put Chicago on the international art map. 

Expo Chicago also showcases groundbreaking projects, such as this neon installation by Chicago-based conceptual artist Erik Peterson, “Seep,” shown last year.  Photo: BlouinArtInfoBlogs

Our city is lucky for Karman’s vision and determination—given the cachet this brings to our city and the way it broadens our opportunities for buying art in Chicago.  And of course, while we will all be at Art Expo to see, be seen and keep our eyes focused on the art scene, we’re really crazy-motivated to hit the SAIC Alum show—and the subsequent student shows for artists who are still in school or graduating. If anything, the 2015 iterations of these two art forums are a great wake up call for all of us, and an exceptional opportunity for buying pioneering art in Chicago.

04 Sep 2015

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