Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chicago Chaos Clearing?

Every dealer or artist who's installed at an art fair has horror stories of the chaos it often entails. Recent fairs have had problems with flooding, power outages, and dangerous carbon monoxide levels to name but a few. But in the annals of art history, this year's Art Chicago, which was supposed to take place in a tent in Butler Field again, might just rank as the most chaotic set up of all. From the Tribune (see update here):

Art Chicago, the annual fine art exposition, appeared down for the count Tuesday, just two days before its scheduled opening night, but its manager insisted it had another round left in it.

Thomas Blackman, who has produced the show for the last 13 years, issued a statement at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, after a day in which many of the 125 exhibitors expected at the fair were kept in the dark about time and location.

"Art Chicago will most definitely go on as planned this weekend," said Blackman. "Although we have had to change venues, my primary concern has been to keep my commitment to the city of Chicago and my exhibitors."


Early Tuesday, the first trucks rolled into Butler Field to set up booths and install art from galleries around the country and abroad. They found an open, deserted tent, with a dirt floor and no walls.

The first obvious sign of trouble came last week, when some unions represented at the site engaged in informational picketing.


Howard Tullman, president of Chicago's Kendall College and a contemporary art collector, said Blackman called him Friday, but the two didn't speak at length until Saturday. Tullman said that he was asked for a short-term loan of $250,000 and that Blackman offered art works he owned as collateral.

"I said I would look at it, but was it feasible?" Tullman said, given the work stoppage at Butler Field. He said that Blackman tried to resolve the labor problems but that "by Monday, it was too late."


"Had we been able to conclude something Monday morning, I could have gotten something built [at the pier] Thursday night," Lyman said.

That would have been welcome news to Gregory Martin, owner of a San Francisco art services company. He had driven three days in a truck full of art works from exhibiting galleries and arrived at Butler Field early Tuesday. He couldn't unload and began calling around to figure out what to do.

"If it's rescheduled, I could go visit relatives Downstate and come back," he said. "If not, I'll just turn around and go home."
I've heard a few horror stories behind the scenes (and have requests for more info out there, so I'll update as I learn more), with some folks already assuming they'll suffer a loss, but today the exhibitors finally got some good news. From an email sent by TBA:

Art Chicago 2006 is on!

Art Chicago in the Park announces a change in venue from Butler Field to the historic Chicago Merchandise Mart located at 350 N. Orleans, Chicago, IL 60654. With the generous assistance of the Merchandise Mart Properties, Art Chicago has been given the opportunity to mount its International Exposition of 104 dealers in one of its massive exhibition halls.

The fair was forced to relocate due to a series of related installation delays. Although we looked forward to returning to the Park, the time was too short for us to successfully mitigate the problems. We approached the Merchandise Mart recently as we were seeking alternative locations to Butler Field should these problems become intractable.

We are happy to offer our exhibitors this high-profile alternative location. Construction has already begun on the new floor plan and will mirror as closely as possible the configurations of the floor plan of the show in the Park.

We are holding a meeting with an update on the plans for Art Shippers, Installation and Opening Night. The meeting will take place at 12:00pm Wednesday, April 26th. The location is still being worked out so please call the office after 10:30 am at 312.226.4700 for final information.

We thank you for your patience and consideration at this time. We are doing everything in our power to make this situation as productive and seamless as possible.

Thomas Blackman Associates, Inc.
Here's hoping now things will progress more smoothly and that the participating galleries will look back on this all chuckling as they count their sales totals.


Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

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4/26/2006 07:40:00 PM  

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