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2018 I was a first year participant in Old Town Chicago. Very excited to get to be a part of this fair, considering its acknowledgment as number one in the country. For that reason I am writing a review.

Old Town Art Fair Chicago is not a number one show.. There are many reasons to that, expanding beyond sales alone. Old Town Art fair is an average circuit art fair that attracts heavy hitting artist in an affluent neighborhood. All the familiar faces are there to set-up, and would be new ones too. I would put Old Town in the same pool as Bayou City Downtown. Old Town Art Fair definitely is not a Fort Worth or above show.

Old Town is described as original only show...and in their prospectus it seems as though they are out to uphold their standards...which in my perspective, it encourages me to bring my best game. I was looking forward to seeing booths getting shut down, because we all know the gypsy's and con-artists always be coming where there is money, waiting for their slap on the wrist by organizers, or just perhaps these so called artists delivering insipid rhetoric of being a first timer and justifications to their interpretations of the guidelines.

At Old Town, I saw photography booths selling multiples of the same image and commercial reproductions. What I mean by commercial reproduction is poorly made farmed out prints on canvas and the ever so popular prints on aluminium. Old Town says no selling from catalogs. For many photographers, those pro-panel walls are their catalog...selling nothing from the wall, but shipping in different sizes.

I saw photo booths with flip thru bins selling little $20 dollar things. Flea and Holiday Market level "stuff"; not art, definitely not fine art. In all reality about 70% of the photo booths should have been shut down. I saw painters and illustrators selling similar small work in similar price ranges...and I say there is no difference in these small petty cash pieces, than to say cards, or calligraphy. All that garbage drives down the entire market and corrodes the integrity of the fair and spiritedness as to what being an artist is. Very few booths spoke the artists inner truth. More was decorative and precise in fundamental craft.

It is truly responsible for the organizers to uphold their standards and progress on that year after year, and not make excuses for any degeneration of the environment. Because the environment is degenerating and diluted. I saw glass blowers, having ornaments.
I would like to suggest to organizers of Art Fairs that sell their number one status not to allow any bins, Art only on the walls. Any 2-D Artist showing up to a number one rated fair should actually self-reflect and realize they are not making art anymore once they slide that print or original into that plastic sleeve. Just cranking out stuff.

I give Old Town Art an absolute "F" on restroom sanitation. They have a limited number of porto-potties down an ally. Those porto-potties were not cleaned after Saturday evening, and freshened for the next day. This is the first Art Fair I have been to where the priors day human waste was in the porto-potties.

At a number one rated art fair there needs to be mobile restrooms that are air-conditioned with pressured water for flushing and washing hands, and an attendant onsite to spot clean throughout the day.

Artist amenities I give an "F" grade. Old Town Art Triangle building is a great location to host an Artist Dinner. Nothing. No taste of Chicago. Upon checking in, I would say that the greeter was not very greeting. Just going through the motions...when at most art fairs, the welcoming is always great, with smiles.

I can only have compassion for the girl scouts handing out cheap snacks and soggy girl scouts cookies pulled from the boxes. Which shows to me, just huge in cutting corners, lack of Chicago involvement and sponsorship.

As for the crowd, it was only on Saturday, because Sunday was washed out with rain. Chicago people know the weather better there than I do, which I say the crowds should have been more packed on Saturday. For a number one art fair, it wasn't that busy. Generally, it is not an art buying crowd. Many visitors glossed over, taking topical views of work, more interested in imagery rather than the connectedness and stimulation the pieces create...but that's a closed audience for you. Many just checking price tags. Not too many visitors had done their research, or interested in getting close to the work. Nor did many read artist statements. The crowd, not very diverse, mostly well-behaved Caucasians.

As for the artist moral, I saw many depressed faces, art fair burn-outs and them crazy retired people still needing their fix. One of the guys I talk to, that has done Old Town several years said I picked a weird year to show because according to his expertise there was a lot of garbage at the 2018 show, which gives the show a high-end flea market vibe. And from what I know, that's what Wells Street is all about and that show is taking place simultaneously as Old Town. There is no reason for every booth at a show like Old Town, (rated number one in the nation) not to do 5-10K each.

I'm going to say that this show has greed and laziness running it. I personally do not see no value in this show. When a show is rated number one in the nation, it competes with the gallery. It competes with the contemporary show. It is the peoples salon. Being rated number says we attract the best American Artists, and with that comes the dealers, the galleries, the art consultants, the art collectors. Not even close.

You guys at Old Town have work to do before 2019...because it seems like more so called artists are interested in playing it safe, producing prints, breaking standards, being gypsies and it's time to start upholding policy and make the American Art Fair about Art, and not about consumption. Represent the artist, instead of lining your greedy pockets. Is that too much to say. Hell no it ain't, driving in from Texas. Better luck next year.

As for Artist looking into this fair, bring it. Nothing under $250. Keep it clean, don't hide out in the back doing crossword puzzles. Don't even bring a chair. Bring beers instead. Smile, be open, be presentable and make all those booths around jealous because you came selling only originals, you brought your most superior game and you can look at yourself in the mirror afterwards...because this path isn't just about making money. This fair is your gallery, your independent representation...and a stepping stone to something greater beyond this circuit. For you retired folks that do this, y'all are crazy. Go do art for fun again, because you ain't making the fair a better place with those grumpy faces and anit-social behaviors.

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The only point I have to comment on is your statement about print bins.

Just having print bins does not mean one is mass producing.

My medium is photography. I do EVERYTHING myself. ALL in my own lab / shop. NOTHING is sent out. NOTHING is touched by anyone but me, until ready for sale.

I use print bins. Why? Because my work is eclectic and I have too many pieces to fit on my walls at a show. Therefore I put other works in the bins. I choose, each show, which pieces to hang and which to put in bins.

Sometimes I change them around during the shows.

I agree with you as to the many photogs who "farm out" there work. I am also against that. However whatever is in the rules is applicable. If the show allows it, we have no choice.

I try to seek out shows that do not allow it and enforce that policy. They are very difficult to find. Even the ones who claim it in the rules, don't seem to enforce it.

Just don't assume that having print bins equate to the same thing. It does not. I am NOT a mass producer. Nor a "sell out". I pride myself on only doing art. My belief and that of those who have commented is, my work is art.

If it ever stops being such... I'll quit.

This is the kind of review that has true value.  Too many Art Shows have become "booth sellers".  Booth prices go up but low end stuff dominates.  True fine art is becoming scarce at too many shows and that drives the everything down.  I don't entirely agree on the print bins however.  I have museum quality limited edition giclees (most limited to 30) that cost me from $40 - $50 plus the image capture costs.  I do not sell originals cheap and this is a compromise product.  Some shows over the last few years have seen a decline in quality which. in turn, results in price sensitivity that hurts sales of quality fine art. The flea market trend is killing shows.  I hope that more reviews as candid as this one are forthcoming.  I am not for trying to pull up the quality of a show and trying to make others jealous - they are making in volume with cheap prices.  We need more Fort Worth's.   

Isn't "museum quality giclee" an oxymoron?  Since when do museums show copies of real art?

To answer your question ...

Here is a link to an image that is being displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  It's an underwater DIGITAL image captured by Eric Cheng of a turtle and printed as a giclee print. Of course the displays are rotated yearly but on this given day the turtle image was featured as "a 5-foot print on a free-standing column at the front-entrance of the exhibit."  Every year the new winning image takes its place of honor and the winners are moved to their new respective places, still within the museum.


Well, a "giclee" print of a photograph is still a photograph.  A "giclee" copy of a painting is something else altogether, don't you think?

Photographs are real art. The camera is just a tool just like your paintbrush is a tool.  I am not sure where is says that paintings created with a physical brush in hand in any given medium are the only forms of "Real Art". And all tools such as cameras, wood working tools, potters wheels etc. relegate the creators art to the "less than bin."

A giclee print of a painting, is a print of a painting, but it is still a piece of art.  The print of the painting doesn't command the same price point as the original; but that doesn't mean it isn't art.   But that wasn't what you typed in your above response. 

Getting back to your original statement: In the initial rebuttal you typed "Isn't museum quality giclee an oxymoron? "Since when do museums show copies of real art?"  The date of the article I provided was 2006. So we know that before 2006 museums were displaying giclee prints.  Your statement infers that you believe that real art is restricted to paintings.  You don't mention any constraining mediums though.  A lot of photography captures the painting of light.

The phrases 'Giclee prints' and 'museum quality' in the same conversation are not oxymorons.  In the same light, the fact that it is a giclee print does not constitute museum quality. A print can be museum quality depending on the quality of all of the materials/components used to create that print whether it is a photograph or a digitized version of the creators original piece of art, which could be a painting in oil, watercolor or even an image of a sculpture.  The fact that the art was printed from a digital file does not relegate the artist work to the trash bin.

A giclee is not real art.  It is a copy of real art. A counterfeit hundred dollar bill isn't real money either.  “Giclee" isn't even a real word.  It's just a fancy french sounding name for an ink jet print.  To make it sound like it's more than it is.  It's inherently dishonest.

Hey Bernard, You definitely got that right. Totally agree. And if people want to sell those, that is their prerogative at certain shows...but you are lying to yourself Joanna, if you think they are more than just an ink jet print. 

Giclee means "to spray". It has been interpreted in many different ways but basically it is when ink is sprayed onto the surface and is generally used to convey a higher quality such as a fuller gamut range and higher resolution and archive ability. There is no solid definition used in the industry. It is merely a matter of interpretation by many. If a painter were to spray with his brush by atomizing the particles and propelling them onto the canvas, would this not be accepted as art? 

Is it really important how the coloring is applied to the medium? I believe the main concern to be addressed here is the reproductive ability of these prints.

If an artist we're capable of painting many, many small copies of a same image, very quickly. Would that not be considered mass production?

There is an artist who put paint up his anal orifice and then sprayed that on his canvas. Technically that was giclee. Everybody has their own opinion as to whether or not it was art.

Well, if you consider a xerox of a drawing to be real art then I guess you feel the same way about "giclees," which I've heard is French slang for masturbation.

Man, Seems like you have a grudge. I didn't get to walk the whole show....only a bit of my area, because I was pretty busy selling most of the time. I am a painter, I have all originals. If you get into "Old Town" you don't muck with the rules, or you don't get in again. I too have been at all the big shows, and I honestly think that "Old Town" upholds it's standing. Yea, maybe it doesn't wine and dine you like other shows, and I will give it to you that the porta-potties were awful, but you can't deny that the quality is top notch and they bring the buyers, even in the rain. The judging is excellent and in my area, I didn't see any buy/sell around. As for photographers, that's something I can't comment on, it's not my area, so you all will have to figure that out yourselves. it's always a slippery slope because it's hard to regulate, unlike original paintings. I have some small work in my booth, I try to appeal to everyone, it's just a sound business practice. I also have quite a few in the 48 x 60 range. I did well in both areas. I have been doing fairs since 2012, so I feel I am still relatively new, I have done "Old Town" three times in the last four years. I feel like it's an honor to get into this show, just like it's an honor to get into any other big show. Sorry that you were so disappointed, but bashing a show like this sounds like you had a great show at Fort Worth and you are comparing everything else to this, or maybe you have just done galleries before and you feel like this is a step down for your ego. This is hard work that can be profitable but it's never going to be a gallery setting and that is why most of us do it. I still feel that it is the #1 show in the country....I have the profits to prove it.

Nice review Margaret Luttrell. Accepting the good and the bad is part of the game. I have just started offering prints, am very new to this in general, and already see the need in a varied price point to fit all demographics who enjoy art but can't afford originals. It's always hit or miss sometimes.


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