Artropolis 2009 makes art look recession-proof

With this weekend’s Artropolis, Chicago’s annual art extravaganza, it appears that the art industry has come out of the economic crisis unscathed, or at least unbroken.

By Mitch Montoya

The current economic crisis clearly has had crippling effects on all areas of the economy. Everything from banks to local businesses seems to be either shutting down completely or significantly scaling back. Yet with this weekend’s Artropolis, Chicago’s annual art extravaganza, it appears that the art industry has come out of the economic crisis unscathed, or at least unbroken.

This weekend thousands of artists, curators, and art lovers will flock to the gigantic Merchandise Mart downtown to celebrate everything that is art. Artropolis is comprised of three different events: Art Chicago, NEXT, and the Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, each of which includes innumerable demonstrations, panel discussions, exhibitions, and special features. The artists and artwork highlighted at these events are as diverse and numerous as the patrons who attend. Prestigious galleries like Barcelona’s Galeria Ferran Cano, in addition to lesser-known gems like the Carl Hammer Gallery of Chicago, have come together for the event with the common goal of presenting what’s exceptional and innovative in the art world.

The grand scale of Artropolis might give the impression that the art world is impervious to the struggling economy, but some Art Chicago events prove that galleries are trying not only to stay on top of trends but also ahead of the downturn. Art Chicago will bring together emerging and established gallery owners to field ideas on how to creatively and economically display photography, painting, drawing, prints, sculpture, and installation art. These discussions, part of the 2009 Art Chicago Speaks series, will begin with a panel discussion on how the current economic crisis has affected exhibitions and programming. While cost-cutting will be the central theme in these talks, the five-figure price tags on some of the items for sale at Artropolis clearly demonstrate that the art world is not willing to devalue art in the midst of the current economy.

Much like other industries searching for new innovations to stay relevant, Art Chicago will feature some emerging artists with pioneering ideas. This year, the fair will showcase works by students from some of the best MFA programs in the world in an exhibit entitled New Insights. Curated by Suzanne Ghetz, director of the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, the exhibit will feature work by up-and-coming students. These artists promise to dazzle with visionary installations and fascinating performance pieces.

Another event in Artropolis, NEXT, also aims at discovering the next “it” artist with contests such as the West Collection Prize. The West Prize is a yearly international competition in which 10 artists win a total of $125,000 in miscellaneous awards. This year’s finalists will have their previous work documented in a catalog, and their new art will be unveiled at an upcoming NEXT event. From the truly beautiful to the unbelievably bizarre, NEXT’s talented artists are guaranteed to evoke strong reactions from crowds.

If your style is more classic and refined, Artropolis will have something for you as well. The International Antiques Fair has 100 of the best dealers of antiques and fine art, specializing in jewelry, 20th-century design, Asian art, Americana, and many other traditional styles. Although most of the items in the collection are extremely expensive, there are some fairly reasonable finds. Whatever your price range, seeing all these impressive pieces is worth the walk through the fair. If auctions aren’t your idea of fun, the Antiques Fair will also feature the Queen of Refinement and Domesticity herself, Martha Stewart. She will be the keynote speaker for the event on Friday, and reservations are still available. Martha’s advice on cooking, collecting, and entertaining, while perhaps a bit unrelated to the overall event, is sure to be a great way to remind yourself of all the things you’re too lazy to do at home.

Guaranteed to impress, the weekend-long Artropolis shows that the art world seems to be going strong. If Artropolis is any indication, the art industry has every intention of continuing undaunted and full steam ahead.

Artropolis Website