The Sculpture Objects & Functional Art fair organized by the Art Fair Company each year on Chicago’s Navy Pier is more than just another market of beautifully crafted objects designed and executed by some of the world’s best makers.
SOFA is also a barometer of our field. Aesthetic direction, media percentages, gallery appearances (and disappearances), size of booth, placement in hall, artists on show – SOFA is a virtual snapshot of where we are and, more importantly, where we’re going.
Granted, it’s not yet even Opening Night. Many dealers are still knee-deep in installation. But since our own booth is finally “done and dusted”, I had a few minutes yesterday to walk the aisles and take a few notes. Shared herewith….
Honey, we shrunk the fair. The cold reality is that we’ve all down-sized. This is the second year in a row that Bullseye’s taken a 50% smaller footprint. With rare exceptions, the biggest dealers have also reduced the size of their spaces.
The good news: coupled with that shrinkage, I saw some intriguing innovation in how dealers managed the new reality. Collaboration – between exhibiting dealers and between out-of-town dealers and local galleries – was the most savvy strategy I glimpsed.
Look who’s coming to dinner. Arguably the most innovative players in this game are the show organizers themselves. I have huge respect for Mark Lyman and the Art Fair Company for remaking the show in interesting yet not jarring ways each year. Whether I always agree with the moves, their relentless energy in keeping it fresh for both exhibitors and audience puts this organization leagues ahead of other fairs we’ve experienced. This year’s addition of the Intuit market will be interesting. Jury is still out; I hope there’s something instructive to report at fair’s end.
The good, the bad and the fugly. OK, as of yesterday when I left the hall, the show was far from set, but I caught glimpses of some works that made my heart sing, and others that screamed to have an EMPTY sticker (or worse) slapped on them – all on the main aisle (i.e., this isn’t about the more established dealers having The Best Work).
For ourselves, we’re – as always – excited to be included. And – as has been our mission since our first appearance here in the last century (is that fun to write, or what?!!) – we’re showing a mix of the best emerging artists with mid-career makers and a Grand Old Master.
For old, new, good, bad, and a tantalizing slice of the larger art world, there is just nothing like SOFA Chicago.
PS. Please excuse the horrific quality of my photos – snapped without looking at settings on my dinky camera yesterday while rushing about the show.