CHICAGO — The Fountain Art Fair is located at the edge a heavily industrial area of the Pilsen neighborhood where many local artists live and work. Compared to Expo Chicago, it is a welcome free-for-all DIY art oasis at the edge of an art community, and housing another one (artists rent the studio spaces in this building, which is also home to Mana Contemporary). Taking its inspiration from Duchamp — using a readymade-esque urinal as its logo — the Fountain Art Fair arrived in Chicago as the first satellite art fair of Expo Chicago.
Eighteen galleries, artists or project spaces took up temporary residence at Fountain. Outside of the warehouse space, a swing-set attached to an array of percussive instruments invited viewers to fly back-and-forth, erupting a cacophony of sounds. This harmonious human-operated machine added a playful element to the art fair mentality.
“I think that because EXPO Chicago succeeded in its first year with a fair at a new location, a fair from outside of Chicago, like Fountain, felt comfortable and open to the idea of coming to Chicago,” Anna Cerniglia, a Supporting Partner of Fountain Art Fair and the director of Chicago art space Johalla Projects, told Hyperallergic.
Naturally, the vibe at Fountain bounced off of the magnetic and monumentally larger Expo art fair on the other side of the city. Fountain boasted a concert with Detroit’s ADULT. on Saturday evening, and a Friday night party that benefited the Detroit Institute of Art. Street art, folk art, and outsider art aesthetics ran high, as they normally do, at Fountain. Tongue-in-cheek gallery names like Rockford-based FATHERLESS and Philadelphia’s Arch Enemy Arts were in attendance.
Smaller artist project spaces and individual artists prevailed, yet the presence of Packer Schopf, an established Chicago art gallery that shows a blend of fine and outsider art, brought a more mature feel to the otherwise youthful Fountain.
And then there were the curios, like the mysterious remains of Industry of the Ordinary’s “The Harvest,” which is a life-sized butter sculpture of President Barack Obama inside of a freezer-on-wheels. Created during the last US Presidential election, this piece survived a trek from the West Loop to the Cultural Center downtown (roughly a four-hour journey). A publicly cited performance gesture, “The Harvest” has gone through its buttery phase, and will remain refrigerated until further notice but I assume that its lifespan, like the President’s term, is limited.
“I don’t think I would ever want an art fair explosion here like Miami, but I don’t see why we can’t hold a few satellite fairs as New York does during Armory or Frieze,” Cerniglia says.
The Chicago incarnation of the Fountain Art Fair ran September 20–22 at Mana Contemporary (2233 S. Throop, Chicago) to coincide with Expo Chicago.