Dealers Report a Sluggish Start at EXPO Chicago 2016

There was talk of a market adjustment.

EXPO Chicago. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

Amid reports of a period of consolidation in the art market all eyes were on Chicago where EXPO, one of the first fairs of the fall season, kicked off on Thursday. (On the same weekend, the Viennacontemporary fair opened its second edition in the Austrian capital).

A total of 145 galleries from 23 countries made the trip to the Midwest for the event which attracted domestic and international collectors such as the London-based Zabludowicz family.

Things got off to a slow start with most dealers reporting sales of only one or two items. Some gallerists told artnet News that they had a couple of works on hold and were awaiting confirmation, while some admitted to having not yet closed any deals at all during preview.

EXPO Chicago. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

EXPO Chicago. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

There was lots of talk of a slowing market and at least three dealers conceded that the art market is currently experiencing an adjustment after a period of rampant speculation. One New York dealer suggested that collectors were reacting to residual uncertainty following the stock market dip of summer 2015 and that buyers may be spooked by economic uncertainty in an election year.

A European dealer even jokingly blamed Tico Mugrabi for “stealing” all of his clients by inviting them to the south of France to attend his wedding.

Despite the sluggish opening days numerous dealers remained upbeat and optimistically told artnet News that they were expecting to make the majority of their sales on the weekend when private collectors from around the Midwest as well as from South America are due to arrive in Chicago.

David Zwirner was one of the standout performers at EXPO. Partner Julia Joern confirmed a number of sales via email including photographs by William Eggleston and Wolfgang Tillmans, works by Yayoi Kusama, a work on paper by Ad Reinhardt, a painting by Bridget Riley, and a recent painting by Lisa Yuskavage.

New York gallery Paul Kasmin completed some early sales, and director Eric Gleason exclaimed that they were “supremely pleased with the first two days.” Gleason reported that the gallery sold a work by Roxy Paine within the first hour of the VIP preview, although he declined to divulge the price. He added that they also closed other deals but didn’t specify what works had been sold.

EXPO director Tony Karman. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

EXPO director Tony Karman. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

Berlin’s König Galerie also reported strong sales. Dedicating their booth to Alicja Kwade, the gallery sold a trumpet sculpture for €45,000, a clock-like wall piece for €18,000, and two necklaces for prices ranging from €4,000 and €7,000 each. Sales director Sarah Miltenberger aptly summed up the fair’s clientele and their taste as “classic, conservative, and good.”

Fellow Berlin gallery Peres Projects, who were showing a solo booth with works by Blair Thurman, said they had numerous inquiries and some serious interest. “We’re waiting to confirm a couple of things and if it goes through it will be a great fair,” gallerist Javier Peres said. He added “we wanted to go to a new city and chose Chicago because of the museum and curatorial community in this city.”

San Francisco dealer Tony Meier praised Chicagoans for their rich cultural appreciation, saying “There’s big love of the arts and the institutions are as great as they come.” He also lauded EXPO director Tony Karman: “Tony does a great job,” he said, “The transactional aspect is something he can’t control.” Meier’s early business included the sale of a ceramic work by JJ Peet and a piece by Donald Moffett, which were sold for “under six figures.”

Chicago's finest also enjoyed the art. Photo: Cory Dewald/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

Chicago’s finest also enjoyed the art. Photo: Johnny Knight/EXPO Chicago via Facebook.

Elsewhere New York gallerist Jim Cohan also closed some early deals, selling two works by the Ethiopian artist Elias Sime for prices between $55,000 and $60,000. Cohan told artnet News that the audience in Chicago is a little bit more conservative. “You’re in the Midwest,” he said. “People are here to buy things that go in their home.” However, he added “we’ve seen a dramatic improvement, big outreach from curators from Midwestern cities.”

Making the trip from across the Atlantic, the Swedish gallerist Claes Nordenhake, who was showing works by John Coplans, Helen Mirra, and Scott Olson, admitted that sales were “not so good,” but added that it was still early. “For us this is an experiment,” he explained. “We’ve tried a lot of fairs and this fair has the potential to be very good, and it’s getting better.”

Galerie Daniel Templon from Brussels sold two works by the Senegalese artist Omar Ba for $40,000. “It’s our first time exhibiting in Chicago,” executive director Anne-Claudie Coric said. “We’re very happy with the early response, and we have more on hold.”

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