Chicago Expo Art Week Is Upon Us (And That’s the Tip of the Artsy Iceberg)

“Hubris and Narcissus Split the Bill” by David Lewis / Courtesy of Expo Chicago and Carol Fox and Associates

Chicago Expo Art Week is here! This fall’s calendar is bigger than ever, with two art fairs coinciding with a biennial. It will be a challenge navigating these major events—never mind all the gallery openings—but here are some of the happenings you won’t want to miss.

Tyrrel Winston, A Life Well Lived, 2019. Courtesy of Stems Gallery and New Art Dealers Alliance.

Expo Chicago at Navy Pier
The eighth edition of this international art fair returns with 135 exhibitors from 24 countries. Don’t miss booths by local galleries like Moniquemeloche and Kavi Gupta, as well as such heavy hitters as Hauser & Wirth—here for the first time and showing a splendid display of recent paintings by the inimitable Lorna Simpson.
Details: September 19–22

Chicago Invitational at the Chicago Athletic Association
Presented by the New Art Dealers Association, this fair is making its debut in Chicago with 39 exhibitors from 19 cities. You could say it’s a sign that the international art community is increasingly paying more attention to the city as a robust arts hub. Don’t miss out on this inaugural affair, which will not only take over event spaces but also hotel rooms.
Details: September 18–21

Chicago Architecture Biennial at Various Sites
If you’re passionate about how architecture can be used as a lens to understand, critique, or revisit history and culture, don’t miss the third edition of this biennial. This year’s theme is “…And Other Such Stories,” a prompt for participants to showcase projects that engage with issues related to social justice and civic inquiry. Note that the main exhibitions are at the Chicago Cultural Center, but many partner sites around town are also hosting special installations.
Details: September 19

Barely Fair at Julius Caesar
Here’s an art fair that’s far from conventional: Dedicated to mini art only, this expo features white booths designed at a 1:12 scale of conventional ones. Two dozen exhibitors—mostly artist-run spaces—are participating, making for what will undoubtedly be one of the most fun events of the week.
Details: September 20

Glenn Ligon, Study for Negro Sunshine #88, 12 x 9 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm). Collection of Beth DeWoody, N.Y. Luhring Augustine © Glenn Ligon/Courtesy of the artist, Hauser & Wirth, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Chantal Crousel, Paris.

“In the Absence of Light: Gesture, Humor, and Resistance in the Black Aesthetic” at Stony Island Arts Bank
This will perhaps be the best survey of black artists mounted in the city this month. Artist Theaster Gates has organized this group show of paintings by 20 artists of the African diaspora, including Glenn Ligon, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Henry Taylor. Run, don’t walk, to the galleries.
Details: September 19

“Passionate Signals” at Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
Artist Martha Rosler is known for her outspoken art that rages against the injustices of war, politics, and the American media. This show will display a slightly different kind of imagery: 25 years of her flower and garden photographs. Don’t expect them to be just pretty pictures, however.
Details: September 17

“Take Me to the Water” at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
The debut exhibition at this gallery, which moved from Seattle, surveys the work of Ayana V. Jackson. In each photograph, Jackson centers herself—a black woman—posing in the style and fashions of 19th- and early-20th-century portraiture. Exquisite and monumental, they are forceful statements that disrupt the ceaseless Colonial gaze.
Details: September 20

Gladys Nilsson, Repose, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Rhona Hoffman.

“Gladys Nilsson: New Work” at Rhona Hoffman
Last week, this West Town gallery opened a delightful show of recent paintings by Nilsson, who was one of the visionary members of the celebrated Chicago art group the Hairy Who. She renders the human figure like a joyful eye, depicting elongated, surreal bodies that thrum with color.
Details: Ongoing

“Canada b/w Drag City” at Soccer Club Club
The excellent Canada gallery (based in New York) teams up with Drag City’s art gallery for this pop-up exhibition that features some of the best painters of our time. Also: It’s an Expo Chicago after-party, so unwind with music and drinks by Chicago’s own Land and Sea Dept.