Reportage from the ninth edition of Expo Chicago

The ninth edition of Expo Chicago has just concluded, the fair that has revived the spotlight on the American metropolis, destined to become a significant destination in the geography of the United States.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, Chicago has returned to welcome the international art world. The ninth edition of Expo Chicago was held from April 9 to 10, 2022, accompanied by a lively art week involving the entire city, confirming it as the new American Capital of Culture.

Expo Chicago 2022. Image lent by Expo Chicago. Photo by Justin Barbin


The fair, born in its current version from the ashes of the long-lived Art Chicago (1980-2011), this year for the first time it moved from September to April, an election wanted and supported by President and CEO Tony Karman, who said: “Our new April dates give the exhibit a historical look back at a time on the art fair calendar that Chicago had held for over 25 years prior to the launch of Expo Chicago in the fall of 2012.“.
The election was rewarded by the public with 30,000 footage from around the world. There were 140 galleries at the fair, from 25 countries, with a spread from the United States. Numerous innovations in this polished edition, starting with the directors’ summit, which was inaugurated by bringing together new directors from across the country to discuss the transformations and future of museum management today. The meeting supports and completes the program dedicated to curatorial initiatives, which include the Curatorial Forum, in collaboration with the Independent Curators International (ICI), and the Curatorial Exchange, which involves international curators selected in collaboration with foreign consulates and institutions.
Among the works on display is plenty of space for artists from the African diaspora, such as Derrick Adams, who has signed Silver liningthe illustration chosen for the limited edition, with which Expo Chicago celebrated its reopening to the public, and reviving a tradition for the city’s historic fairs that had been relaunched in 2019. Works by Adams himself met in spaces in various galleries, along with numerous other representations of the American black experience, such as the contemporary ones by Sonia Clark and Vanessa German or the historical ones by Archibald Motley Jr. and the Africobra group, born in Chicago, and to which an entire exhibition is dedicated, inaugurated during the art week in the rooms of The Peninsula Hotel.

Adjani Okpu Egbe, _Fortitude
Adjani Okpu Egbe, _Fortitude “(Women, the soul of the movement), 2020, mixed media, 195.6 x 221 cm. Courtesy Eduardo Secci


At the fair, even among the (not many) Italian galleries, there were those who chose to participate with artists facing issues of racism and postcolonialismhow did he Eduardo Secci (Florence ‒Milano) who set up their own stand with works by, among others, the Brazilian Rafael Baron and Adjani Okpu-Egbe from southern Cameroon. Italy also stood out with the special project In / Situentrusted this year to curator Marcella Beccaria (Rivoli Slot, Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin), which has chosen as a theme rare earths, 17 chemical elements that symbolically served as a leitmotif for a selection of works installed in the exhibition pavilions, including works by Nancy Rubins, Edra Soto, Bertina Lopes, Liz Larner, Cildo Meireles. The installation was also to include a work by the Italian Guglielmo Castelli created especially for the project, but the work did not arrive, due to a hacker attack that the shipping company had suffered. The installation is completed by an outdoor section, In / Situ Outsidewith works in the city parks.

Expo Chicago 2022. Image lent by Expo Chicago.  Photo by James Prinz.  Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Tell Your Struggle With Triumphant Humor, from the series How To Suffer Politely (and Other Etiquette), 2014. Lent by the artist and NOME, Berlin
Expo Chicago 2022. Image lent by Expo Chicago. Photo by James Prinz. Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Tell Your Struggle With Triumphant Humor, from the series How To Suffer Politely (and Other Etiquette), 2014. Lent by the artist and NOME, Berlin


During the week, there was no shortage of art on the streets of Chicago: for Override / A Billboard project, several digital billboards in various places in the city displayed a curated selection of modern works of art; and between the bridges and the riverside skyscrapers, on the huge white facade adorned with windows from MART, sound suit dancers by the Chicago artist Nick Cave which with this display celebrates the first retrospective of its career opening in May at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
That involvement of the whole city it was the real distinguishing feature of a trade fair and an art week that managed to create an atmosphere of sharing and intimacy, a rarity in these situations.
This is how we do things here in ChicagoSaid Tony Karman again. “No city does what Chicago can in terms of partnerships and community building. The fair is connected with all the most important cultural institutions in the city and with the administration, and thanks to these collaborations we want to celebrate the art not only during the event, but 365 days a year.“.
Outside the Expo, Chicago actually worked hard to welcome visitors and turn the fair into an occasion for celebration and meeting. Museums, galleries, foundations and hotels have organized exhibitions and special events that have given the public the opportunity to dive into the city’s cultural offerings. In line with the hottest themes at the moment is the current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Beautiful diaspora / You are not the inferior part which through the works of sixteen artists tells the wealth of experiences that stem from global diasporas. More commercial and shouted, the collective Skin in the game as staged works by forty contemporary artists, including many venues, in the vacant spaces of an old office building that hosted one of the week’s busiest parties. From the most committed to the most playful art, Chicago Art Week was varied, rich and lively and has been able to create an atmosphere distinct from Art Basel’s glam as from New York’s elitism, giving itself its own identity and promising to become one of the inevitable deals in the American art calendar.

Maurita Cardone

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