o experience Expo Chicago is to rub shoulders with the art world's elite, it is to schmooze with the upper echelon of gallerists, curators and collectors from across the world but above all it is the chance to see one of the most exclusive collections of contemporary and modern art. The eighth edition of Expo Chicago brought "135 leading galleries from 24 countries" into Navy Pier's massive festival hall this year but the intention of this exquisite display isn't just to share the cutting edge of contemporary and modern art with art lovers, there is also an impetus for transaction. The exposition's opening night only welcomed VIP guests but it raised over $250,000 to benefit Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art which goes to show this week-long spectacle goes beyond a gallery opening or a museum exhibition and enters the realm of 'art event of the season'.

In a typical gallery space the observer's main goal is to appreciate and experience the art but many attendees of EXPO Chicago have different lenses. There eyes scan exhibitions with the tenacity of sharks as they analyze the work's content, form, dimensions and price. These sharks represent the fuel of the art world, they gather artworks religiously and distribute them to galleries or clients across the globe. One could say that EXPO Chicago combines the pedestrian experience of art with the professional and these two disparate elements are allowed to exist in one massive room. If there was any place to purchase a Frankenthaler, make connections with a gallery in Berlin and see artists like Nick Cave or Theaster Gates strolling around, it would be EXPO Chicago. Although this exposition is totally inclusive to people from all walks of life, it isn't difficult to deduce that the leaders of the art industry reside here and this is their playground. Let's examine their toys.


Although it didn't constitute any sort of majority, there were a number of rare artworks from the Modern period, which spans from the late 19th century to about 1950, at this year's EXPO. The David Zwirner Gallery which has locations in New York, London and Hong Kong displayed a pair of paintings from Josef Albers' 'Homage to the Square' series, illuminating the late artist's intense color theory research.

New York's Hollis Taggart had one of the most elaborate exhibitions for Modern art at EXPO with three paintings by Hans Hoffman (below), a painting by Alex Calder, small works from Elaine De Kooning and Franz Kline, along with a painting by Joan Mitchell.

The most intriguing part of this booth was the inclusion of Michael (Corrine) West who studied under Hans Hoffman, which offered a delightfully linear narrative of abstraction. Hoffman seemed to be very popular at this year's EXPO considering Yares Art also featured two prominent works by him. Yares Art also exhibited large works from Helen Frankenthaler (below) and Morris Louis.

Chicago's Richard Gray Gallery exhibited a rare 1951 sculpture by Picasso which caught the eyes of many passersby, Kasmin showed works by Robert Motherwell and Lee Krasner and Gallerie Thaddeus Ropac had Robert Rauschenberg's Washed Ghost (Borealis) from 1989 (below).


Although the works of antiquity remind us of the art historical narrative and comfort us through their notoriety, the majority of the works presented at EXPO were from contemporary artists. One of the superstar artists from this year's EXPO was Alex Katz. Katz is a 90-year-old artist known for his large, expressive portraits of his late wife and there were six to seven pieces exhibited by at least four different galleries.

Aside from the large portraits it was refreshing to see a trompe-l'œil sculpture by Katz shown by Kasmin and a decorative painting with yellow flowers shown by the Richard Gray Gallery.

Another artist who refused to be ignored at this year's exposition was Tony Cragg with his stainless steel sculptures that so easily catch the eye.

Walking through the many booths at EXPO Chicago it can be invigorating to find artists that dominate the digital art world of Instagram in real life. For example, Detroit's Library Street Collective brought two large paintings by Jason REVOK (below), known for his 'graffiti machine paintings', and one by Sam Friedman.

Beers London brought an amazing exhibition that explored contemporary forms of abstraction with Jonni Cheatwood (below) and Milo Matthieu.

Los Angeles' Richard Heller Gallery exhibited two large works from Farshad Farzankia (below), which showcased his oil stick talents.

New York-born artist Eddie Martinez (below) was properly represented at the Timothy Taylor booth with three pieces from 2019.

Other artists that made an impression on this year's EXPO were Federico Herrero, represented by the James Cohan Gallery, Michael Bevilacqua, Cauleen Smith, Marcin Dudek and Ilya Bolotowski.

Outside the Exposition

Despite the overwhelming collection that was housed in Navy Pier's festival hall, there were numerous alignments and programs that spread the EXPO energy throughout the city all week long. There were a plethora of aligning exhibits that opened on Friday for Art After Hours such as Reverb at The Peninsula (below), Jeffrey Gibson at Kavi Gupta, and more.

EXPO also hosted Project Override as they took over prominent billboards around Chicago with contemporary art to comment on our society's increased exposure to images. They also hosted Art on the Mart which placed projections from Charles Atlas on the Merchandise Mart buildings alongside the river. It seems that even the folks that did not attend EXPO Chicago were able to get a taste of this year's international exposition of contemporary and modern art.

Photos by
Pedro Acosta