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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 beggars...so 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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Replies to This Discussion

1) I don't know what a giclee is and I have no interest in knowing.

2) Nobody added a link to the page that had the show rankings. I really don't want to know that either. I know which shows are the best and I like the fact that all those rankings are hardly accurate. It's better that those lists are not accurate because if they were real, everyone would apply to them and it would be harder to get in.

3) Michael, I'm looking forward to seeing you at Cherry Creek, again, speaking of top level shows.

Barry

Are you doing Ann Arbor?

If so which section?

I'm doing Ann Arbor. 

Barry, if you meant me, I will miss you at the Cherry this year. I am choosing to believe that not being there means that the next time I am there, patrons will flock to me and buy everything I bring because they missed me so much. HA! Have a great show!

I agree that the Cherry is indeed a top level show and I am grateful anytime I jury in. (I'm trying to begin a new nickname with the Cherry. Feel free to use it. HA!)

As for knowing what a giclee is, it is much like the terms "All Natural" or "Orange is definitely your color". It is intended to deceive and should never be used by anyone that hopes to be known as honest. Call things by their proper names.

(Anyone who hopes to further debate the positive merits of this word with me, save yourself some time. I don't care. In the words of Tovah McQueen and Belma Buttons on MadTv's Reality Check, "I am through".)

Michael

Is throwing out the "last word" to state your side, then saying you don't care to hear the facts, appropriate?

My father used to say "Don't confuse me with the facts" he was being sarcastic and showing an example of...how not to be, when he did so.

I have a reputation of being honest beyond the measures most could use. However I will use the word Giclee in it's proper context. Not in deception.

However to deceive, all one has to do is make a false statement, then refuse to listen to the facts and say "I am through".

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