Friday, May 06, 2005

Art Chicago in the Park

I spent last week working on the newly tented Art Chicago in the Park for Thomas Blackman and Associates (TBA). It was chaotic, but it happened and I think the organizers were proud of themselves. The show seemed to have a good word of mouth and response in the press and the competing Chicago Contemporary and Classic show, which took over TBA's old Navy Pier spot, apparently was as lame as the name suggests. We shall see how it all plays out yet over the next coming months. I suppose one of the newspapers will declare victory for someone at somepoint in the Chicago Art Fair Wars of 2005.

There are a couple things that TBA has going for them that I never see mentioned in the discussions about the show.

The first is that first Thomas Blackman is an optimist and has some vision and seems to have done this sort of thing long enough to trust if you keep putting an idea out and talking about it in the way you want it to be understood then the audience will eventually go along with it...assuming he can stay financially afloat in the mean time. This is brand management I suppose but also what having vision is, whether you agree with the vision or not. I sense vision in Michael Workman and the Nova Young Art Fair but not in CC&C.

The second thing is that TBA is really very unrooted/live-out-of-boxes seeming organization, and the kind of somewhat-underprepared and disorganized feel of it all gives them a lot of experience troubleshooting and managing crisis. I think this will help them transition without falling too far behind. If they had taken a year off to regroup and create a perfect comeback show they would have lost momentum and put a lot more pressure on their backs to be perfect, which I doubt they ever are, so this way they blaze ahead and are able to take the transition in stride. I suppose the downside to this is keeping staff happy/healthy, and keeping the finances straight with this kind of scene is harder.

So after working the fair I think Art Chicago has a good shot of surviving. The city government seems supportive of their idea, the location (weather permitting) is way better, and they are forced to try something new.

Now was the fair some so radical, new and breathtaking experiment? No. It seemed more intimate to me though as a smaller show. As a viewer I liked that. Maybe the art collectors have other opinions.



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