EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, opens the fall art season each September at historic Navy Pier. Entering its fifth edition in 2016, EXPO CHICAGO presents artwork from 140 leading galleries from around the world, and includes EXPOSURE—a section that affords younger galleries the opportunity to participate in a major international art fair. EXPOSURE provides critical opportunities for curators, collectors, and art patrons to survey the best in innovative and emerging programs.
EXPO CHICAGO also features dynamic on-site programming, including Special Exhibitions, showcasing select international organizations, non-profits and institutions; /Dialogues panel discussions, presented in partnership with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; EXPO VIDEO, a curated selection of new media, film and video works; as well as IN/SITU and IN/SITU Outside and EXPO Projects, a curated selection of site-specific projects presented both on the main floor of the exposition, and throughout the city of Chicago.
With EXPO CHICAGO as the centerpiece, EXPO ART WEEK (September 19–25, 2016) is presented in conjunction with Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism and marketing organization, and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). This citywide celebration of arts and culture features an unprecedented number of institutional alignments and highlighted special events by the city’s most prestigious museums, non-profit organizations, and galleries, making the city a must-visit destination on the international arts calendar.
How Tony Karman catapulted Expo Chicago into the art world spotlight
Tony Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago at Navy Pier, during the initial setup for the showcase of modern and contemporary art Sept. 13, 2016. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)
"We're building a city," says Tony Karman, walking briskly past a nascent maze of gray-hued walls rising from the floor of Navy Pier's exhibition hall.
Karman, president and director of Expo Chicago, is days away from welcoming the national and international art worlds to the annual fair, the city's biggest art event. His reputation, his business and the international cachet of the city of Chicago are, to varying degrees, riding on it. So he's surprisingly calm when confronted with — the carpet.
If you've got an eye for design — and Karman, known for a dapper uniform of trim jackets, crisp shirts and a signature pocket square, does — the carpeting in Navy Pier's exhibition areas is problematic. It conjures up the lobby of the kind of early-'90s hotel that might have had an atrium. And there's a lot of it.
Karman has spent years battling this carpet; covering it up, wishing it would just go away. But when a supervisor greets him, he shrugs and says flooring won't be a concern this year. "I've made peace with the carpet. I'm embracing it." In Karman's world, details matter. But five years into an endeavor that has put the city he loves back on the international art map, the big picture is coming into focus.
"Tony is the hardest-working man in the art world," says Museum of Contemporary Art chief curator Michael Darling. "I was actually out bodysurfing in Miami, and I came riding up onto the beach, and landed right in front of Tony. I sort of popped out of the water, and we started talking business right there."
This is classic Karman — his energy is a defining quality, and his excitement for his projects is infectious.
It's also the quality that probably most explains why Expo Chicago has managed to overcome the burden of Chicago art fair history. "For years," says international fine arts consultant Helyn Goldenberg, "before Miami and all the other shows that we have now, Chicago had an art fair, which was the best art fair in the country, period. It lasted a long time, and then like many things outlived its usefulness and it went away."
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