After attending several art-centered events, I have narrowed down my top art events in Chicago worth checking out. Whether you like graffiti or fine art, this list has something that I’m sure you’ll appreciate it.
EXPO Chicago: The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art
We’re kicking off the list with the largest of the art shows in Chicago, EXPO Chicago. Sprawled across the grand exhibition hall at Navy Pier are over 140 galleries from all over the world featuring the best modern and contemporary art.
Year after year, the expo is steadily growing in popularity with new galleries always being added to the exhibitors list. The featured works of art are displayed in various mediums from sculptures, paintings, photography, and installations. The expo itself is like a buffet of art, where one can sample various styles and mediums in one room.
In addition to perusing the many galleries, one is also able to witness special art performances. For those who want to learn more about the art they are witnessing, there are panel discussions and lectures that one can participate in throughout the expo.
For those new to art expos, while overwhelming, I would recommend EXPO Chicago to get a glimpse of a little bit of everything.
Since it is the largest, browsing the galleries can seem like a daunting task so I recommend exploring all that the expo has to offer with the 3-day weekend pass. The next one is September 22-25th 2016
SOFA: Sculptural Objects Functional Art and Design Fair
SOFA is another art fair that attracts the brightest talent from around the world in this annual event. Also featured in the Navy Pier Exhibition Hall, are over 70 of the world’s best galleries. However, instead of modern and contemporary works of art, SOFA features the most intriguing sculptural objects.
While there are 2D paintings, many of the works at SOFA feature textured and 3D elements. If one is looking to buy a giant installation for their home, this is the place to do it. I would say SOFA is for those who want a less traditional approach to art. Think giant wall fixtures, statues, and paintings that literally jump out at you. There were also many jewelry displays with some of the most unique pieces of jewelry you will ever find.
It’s not as overwhelming as EXPO, but it’s still a lot of ground to cover. I would also recommend the weekend pass just to make sure you don’t miss any of the sights. It’s easy to pass up great galleries so make sure to take your time to browse. In fact, come with a game plan ahead of time because there’s a lot of wow factors inside the expo. Next year’s SOFA is November 3rd-6th
Harlem Fine Arts Show
Next up we have the Harlem Fine Arts Show, and it differs from SOFA and EXPO in that the art features themes from the African Diaspora. It is the largest travelling art show featuring black art with shows in Martha’s Vineyard, DC and Chicago.
For Chicago’s show, it was held in the incredibly spacious Merchandise Mart. There were many exhibitors featuring works ranging from paintings and sculptures. For art collectors, there are pieces of varying prices from affordable to high-end. Because of the varying price ranges, I would recommend Harlem Fine Arts Show for someone who is looking to start growing their art collection.
For collectors of black art, the HFAS has something for everyone. Messages on the art ranged from political statements to spotlighting pop icons. I’m sure HFAS is the only place where you can see a painting of Tupac as president. In fact, it’s probably the only place where you can see so many works of art highlighting President Barack Obama. Paintings told stories of both the past and the present, making the pieces highly relatable. Even the non art connoisseur would find something worthy of taking home.
While the gallery is sprawling with a fine collection of art, don’t think HFAS is your typical art show. When HFAS comes in town, they bring with them events all weekend long in celebration of black art. This year there was a Halloween masquerade entitled the Steppers Ball that played homage to Chicago steppers. This was the night that art lovers can step the night away surrounded by the finest art. In addition to dancing, one could also dabble in the intellectual side of things by participating in various lectures while discussing issues within the black community. It’s a weekend of knowledge, fun, and art making it quite the enjoyable experience.
If you aren’t able to make the show in the various cities, a large portion of the exhibitors are featured in the Black Art in America network. Be sure to stay up to date on when the Harlem Fine Arts Show will be in a city near you!
Buzz Art Auctions
For the young art collector, one may want to head to the hip and trendy Buzz Art Auctions. This event is featured in various cities across the country, providing art lovers with access to some of the countries best street artist. The event has traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago so that lets you know that this auction is a pretty big deal.
The artists works are auctioned off at a live no reserve auction with bidding prices starting as low as $1. The event itself is really cool featuring a DJ, body painting and a live mural painting inside a posh hotel. This year’s event was held in the luxurious Loews Hotel which was fitting because it fit the whole vibe of the evening perfectly. It also doesn’t hurt that there a yummy bites and cocktails being passed around while you contemplate which work you will bid on.
At this year’s auction, there was a good variety of street art from artist all over the country including famous Chicago artist Hebru Brantley and fine artist Amar Stewart of New York. The pieces were fun and witty, fitting the theme of vibrant pieces of art that a young art collector may enjoy.
Some of the proceeds benefitted the Ronald McDonald House Charities; so not only do winning bidders take home a one of a kind piece of art, they are also able to give back to a good cause.
While the works certainly aren’t cheap, the prices are a little more competitive compared to the $20,000 pieces that one may find at SOFA or EXPO.
So there you have it! These are Chicago’s top events that you’ll want to mark on your calendar for next year. As promised, there is a little something for everyone to enjoy so take your pick or enjoy all of them as you delve into the Chicago art scene.