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NeoCon, celebrating its 50th anniversary this June, is a leading light in design and architectural innovation that shines well beyond the contract market.

Tour guides of the Merchandise Mart pose on a model of the building
in 1943. 

 

This event “will feature the most extensive and representative selection of contract goods ever assembled under one roof,” said W.O. Ollman, general manager of the Merchandise Mart in 1969—the year that NeoCon was launched in the art deco landmark. The current iteration of the fair, NeoCon 50, from June 11 to 13, upholds that ethos by being the largest platform to introduce new brands, products and ideas to the commercial design industry. While the show is geared to the contract market, the roster of exhibitors, multitude of attendees and top-notch presentations all expand its relevance beyond typological boundaries. Programming for 2018 includes seminars by design luminaries such as Art Gensler on embracing unexpected opportunities and Chicago’s Carol Ross Barney on creating more sustainable cities. At its core, it is still an educational experience with a lineup that is “more than just design influencers,” says Monica DeBartolo, director of programming. “They are champions for the public good, creating and advocating user-focused, sustainable built environments for a better future.” Ollman had predicted record attendance and “unprecedented enthusiasm,” and, 50 years later, we think he nailed it.