With Chicago’s Art Scene Gathering Steam, NADA Will Launch a New Fair in the Windy City This Fall

The Chicago Invitational will take place this September at the same time as EXPO Chicago.

The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.

The Windy City is getting a new art fair.

The New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) has announced plans to launch a contemporary art fair this September in Chicago. The event will coincide with the eighth annual EXPO Chicago fair and the Chicago Architecture Biennial. It offers a boost for a city that has long been home to elite, dedicated collectors, leading artists, and top-flight museums, but has been less prominent as a market hub.

The Chicago Invitational, as it is called, will take place across three floors of the historic Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, with a selection of booths on two floors and a takeover of 13 hotel rooms on the fourth floor. The Invitational will host around 40 galleries, making it a much smaller event than NADA’s marquee Miami fair, and runs from September 18 to 21. Exhibitors that have signed on early include local dealers (Shane Campbell, Patron) and international names such as Tokyo’s Misako & Rosen.

NADA Miami at the Ice Palace Studios. Photo by Eileen Kinsella.

NADA Miami at the Ice Palace Studios. Photo by Eileen Kinsella.

The expansion is notable for NADA, which shut down its New York fair less than one year ago (and adopted a more exhibition-style event on Governors Island instead). At the time, NADA’s former board president Elyse Derosia told artnet News: “It’s vital for us to think about the where, when, and how of fairs, in a moment so saturated with them.” The board, she said, had voted in favor of cancelling the New York fair after “extensive conversation with members.”

The Chicago Invitational, on the other hand, brings a fair to a market that is far less saturated than New York. “This important expansion to Chicago, in an ideal venue, will continue our mission to support artists and arts organizations internationally,” board president Rachel Uffner said in a statement. “The Invitational will also allow us to cultivate existing relationships in the region while developing new ones. We are already feeling incredible support from Chicago’s cultural and arts community and are looking forward to seeing everyone in September.”

The decision to launch a modestly sized fair in a quirky hotel space is fitting for an organization focused on small to midsize galleries, and very much in line with the current zeitgeist surrounding fairs. Well-received new events such as Frieze Los Angeles (which hosted just over 60 dealers) and Felix (held inside a hotel during Frieze Los Angeles at affordable prices for participants) have emphasized manageability over abundance.

NADA isn’t the only art-market player eyeing Chicago, either. Phillips has recently staffed up in the city and now has two full time representatives working there. “There’s no question the arts scene in Chicago is exploding,” says Lauren Peterson, Phillips’ Chicago regional representative. “We’re seeing more consignors and buyers emanating from the Midwest.” (The auction house recently nabbed the collection of the Chicago real estate developer William Smith, which will be offered in its May sales.)

Tony Karman, the president of EXPO Chicago, welcomes the new activity. He says NADA’s “critically acclaimed fairs and year-round programming in support of its members remains extremely important in these ever-changing times, and I am confident that their first Chicago edition will be successful.”


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