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Thompson Hotels Influencers Chicago X Tony Karman


Bringing the Art World to Chicago and Chicago to the Art World

A major figure in Chicago’s civic, business, and cultural communities for over 30 years, Tony Karman has long demonstrated his commitment to the city. As President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO, which runs at Navy Pier from September 22 to 25 this year, he expands Chicago’s role in the international art world. The 2016 iteration of the art fair will welcome gallery representatives from Tel Aviv to Athens, from Vienna to Tampa. With a series of supplemental programs, Karman is ensuring that Chicagoans can enjoy the weekend, regardless of whether or not they buy art. We spoke to Karman about the upcoming fair.

How does EXPO impact the city’s art community? 
I believe strongly that the annual exposition has huge impact on our art ecosystem, convening curators, collectors, and arts enthusiasts from around the world in our city, and introducing them (some for the first time) to our extraordinary institutions, galleries, and artists. Conversely, EXPO CHICAGO provides an opportunity for our local galleries, collectors, curators, and artists to survey leading contemporary art in their backyard. With 145 galleries from 23 countries and 53 cities participating in the exposition, with well over 100 aligned exhibitions, openings, and ancillary events, as well as numerous international arts writers and critics exploring our city, there is no question that this concentrated activity has a lasting impact. I would love to see the long list of “ripples” that we have created over the last few years, as I am confident that many longstanding relationships are established, new collaborations, and future exhibitions fostered, artists being found and represented—and most importantly, artists being inspired by the work being shown.

What are some works you’re most excited about that will be in the fair?
You’ll get me in trouble.  ALL of the works brought by our exhibitors are important and get me excited. Truth. Every year, I am inspired, provoked, challenged and moved by new and historic work that is presented. I am quite proud of the special installations that are planned as part of our IN/SITU program curated by Diana Nawi from the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, featuring works by Bettina Pousttchi, Spencer Finch, Rodney McMillan, Shana Lutker, and Victoria Fu, among others.  Our EXPO VIDEO program, curated by Daria De Beavais from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, will feature film work by Jesper Just, Mary Reid Kelley, and Camille Henrot, to name a few. Another favorite: new finds from galleries participating in our EXPOSURE section showing more emerging work.

 Name some of your favorite bars, restaurants, and cafes to visit while the fair goes on. Where do you stop for coffee before, where do you take collectors, and where do you go after the long day? 

I am going to do it to you again…ALL of the bars of our host hotels will be very busy (and a great place to mingle with like-minded art enthusiasts especially). Collectors will probably be sampling Chicago’s renowned food scene (just take a look a 10 best list and you can’t go wrong—hint: Nico Osteria at the Thompson). For me, after a long day…there’s no place like home. To start my day, home brew each morning with my wife and two cats is simply the best.

 What should first-time visitors know about EXPO?   
That the long legacy of an art fair in America actually started in Chicago (in 1979). For over 20 years, Chicago hosted the only international art fair in North and South America, held at the iconic Navy Pier. Not Miami, not New York, not L.A, but Chicago. Times have since changed, and we all know there are many art fairs in the world, but EXPO CHICAGO is built on this grand tradition, and all of Chicago is engaged and ready to welcome that. As we open our fifth edition, first-time visitors should explore the work of our leading international art dealers; take advantage of our critically acclaimed programming, such as /Dialogues, IN/SITU, EXPO VIDEO, EXPO Projects; visit our extraordinary museums and galleries; and mix with curators and collectors. Don’t miss visiting Chicago’s galleries to see all that is happening year-round in our great city.