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Exponential Art

Expo Chicago returns for its second year, and it’s poised to take the city by storm once more.

From new Expo exhibitor Massimo De Carlo gallery

From new Expo exhibitor Massimo De Carlo gallery

From new Expo exhibitor Massimo De Carlo gallery

From new Expo exhibitor Massimo De Carlo gallery

From new Expo exhibitor Massimo De Carlo gallery

Planning an exhibition of 120 galleries representing 16 countries; forging partnerships with more than 30 leading institutions such as The Art Institute of Chicago and The School of the Art Institute; and coordinating Vernissage, the opening night cocktail party held in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago... Tony Karman is a man with big plans, and even bigger expectations for Chicago. As president and director of Expo Chicago (expochicago.com), Karman has set out to reestablish the city as a leader in the contemporary art community with his world-class exhibition, returning for its second year Sept. 19-22, and the inaugural year of Expo Art Week, Sept. 16-22, a week of special events, exhibits and performances in collaboration with Chicago’s museums, theaters, restaurants and retailers. And though some say first impressions are the most important, Expo has not slowed down for round two.

“Planning is not just filling the fair,” says Karman. “It’s massive outreach to collectors, curators and art directors—all of it is an ongoing process.” This year, a number of international galleries have joined the fair, including Taka Ishii, Massimo De Carlo and Marianne Boesky. “It’s going to be an important opportunity for a collector or art enthusiast to survey what’s going on globally in the contemporary art world,” he says. Acclaimed architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects will be refining her design of last year’s expo space at Navy Pier, and visitors can expect a much larger site-specific program of large-scale installations and sculptures, so that “attendees will have a fuller and richer art experience, even when they’re not looking at the booths,” says Karman. Plus, the fair will feature an impressive schedule of discussions and lineup of keynote speakers—among them Shamim Momin, head of Los Angeles Nomadic Division and an adjunct curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Visitors are also encouraged to experience the local art scene by taking advantage of a stronger effort to connect them with the gallery districts and cultural institutions (think shuttle services directly from the expo). “With my 30-plus years here, I’ve always been bullish in what’s happening in our city, both culturally and civically, and I think it’s very much the ethos of this fair—to make sure we’re a service to all of those ecosystems as well as we can be,” says Karman. “I’m hoping that we can provide a snapshot people may not otherwise see of what’s happening here 365 days out of the year.”

Though metrics weren’t calculated (they fully intend to this year), Expo’s debut was an obvious success. Getting Karman to admit it, though, is another story. “I don’t know if I will ever acknowledge success,” he says. “Success for me would be when all of those participating sell out their booths, the city benefits from an incredible influx of tourists and the world sees what’s happening in our city.”