The air buzzes over the grand floors of Navy Pier’s Festival Hall where mini galleries are set like city blocks as guests navigate the aisles. There are colors everywhere: nestled in distinct pockets — blue and green, sandy gold and pale blue, black and hot pink — highlighting respective artists and theme-driven galleries. As people pool through, their own colors move among the sections, a constant churning wave. The whole room glows.
Every fall, EXPO — The International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art — creates a world all on its own at Chicago’s historic Navy Pier. This year’s show, which took place September 19–25, marked the fifth exposition, bringing in 145 renowned galleries from around the globe, as well as budding galleries, select solo exhibitions, and hundreds of daily guests.
The visitors move about the space, from gallery to artist, painting to sculpture, conversation to silent standing. They glance and stare and yawn and gape. There’s so much to take in, it seems like there’s something to spark the interest of just about anyone.
In addition to the main show, the festival includes a series of accessory events, showcasing artist talks, panel discussions,and peeks into different pockets of the modern art world such as studio tours and artist interviews. But, the apex of the event is the exposition itself, where art is laid out through Festival Hall for visitors to explore.
Among the 2016 galleria was the William Shearburn Gallery of St. Louis, whose collection swerved in dimensional works of wood and gold; the Jessica Silverman Gallery of San Francisco, whose fabric-esque pieces draped the walls in folds of rouge and auburn; the colorful splotching of the Galerie Daniel Templon of Paris; dribbling, scumbly works from London’s rosenfeld porcini; and the molting lines of the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, from right here in sweet home Chicago. Featured artists throughout the exhibition included photographer Sally Mann and her provocative black and white prints; painter Vera Klement, with her figurative paintings of palette-block colors; and Bernar Venet, his curling steel sculpture work posed upon the gallery floor. The crowd takes it all in.
But what would all this be without those swimming crowds of people? For what is art without observers? Those tilling throngs of onlookers absorb the colors and textures, contemplate the content, spark conversations, laughing or squinting, smiling or getting mad. The art of EXPO was meant to be felt with the world. The accumulation of the grand EXPO Chicago is not simply in the presence of the art itself, but in those who come to see it.
For more info about the show, including its history of featured galleries and artists, and updates on next year’s show, visit the EXPO Chicago website and see all about it for yourself.