Tony Karman is the founder and director of EXPO CHICAGO which in one year has become one of the top art fairs in the world. In short, it is a world class art fair in downtown Chicago www.expochicago.com. I had a quick chat with him about it, what he hopes it achieves and the role he believes art plays in the world today.
MICHAEL: Hey Tony, I must say that I enjoyed EXPO CHICAGO last year, it's first year. What's new this year and what are you trying to accomplish with Expo Chicago?
TONY: Sophomore years can present new challenges, but we are building the second edition of EXPO CHICAGO on a very successful inaugural exposition. We are partnering again with celebrated architect Jeanne Gang to refine the interior environment, we have maintained our commitment to quality, not quantity, with a stellar list of 125 international dealers representing 17 countries and 36 cities participating. We expect to attract more collectors, curators and art enthusiasts, re-establishing the city and the exposition as a preeminent international art fair destination each September.
MICHAEL: Do you see yourself as more of a businessman or art lover? What's your personal relationship with art?
TONY: Both. At the core of this exposition and the reason for it to exist, is to support the creative community, with artists and the artwork, being the most important factors. However, this is a large financial undertaking and the business side is equally important. I am always mindful that the exhibiting galleries are taking a large risk to participate and it is my job to do all to respect that investment and build an exposition that ensures their success. I have a BFA degree with a focus in visual arts and I have always been actively involved. My wife and I collect and maybe someday, I'll go back to try and paint and draw. I gave that passion up a long time ago to play a different role in the arts community, but I continue to have great respect for artists - in every field – who are pursuing their undeniable vision.
MICHAEL: We've got such serious problems in the world: the world economy, unemployment, Syria, crime, etc. Isn't contemporary art frivolous by comparison? What's the point of art given the state of the world?
TONY: Art, and the practice of art, is essential to our humanity and it is difficult to respond to a question like that. One should recognize and not forget that it is most often the artist who uses his or her visual "voice" to shed light on important issues, "asking" the viewer to confront many difficult subject matters. That has been, and will always be, relevant.
MICHAEL: Finally Tony, Chicago is not New York, Los Angeles, London, Miami Beach or Berlin. Where does Chicago fit in the contemporary art world and what do you ultimately want to achieve with Expo Chicago?
TONY: That's right it is not and Chicago is having its own art-world moment with internationally recognized artists, galleries, schools, museum directors and curators putting a new face on the cultural export of our great city. It has always been my hope that EXPO CHICAGO would add fuel to the cultural ecosystem of Chicago providing additional support for our local galleries, artists and museums to benefit and flourish. Most importantly, I want EXPO CHICAGO to stake a claim on this month in the art world calendar to ensure that international collectors, curators and art enthusiasts return to our city each September.
MICHAEL: Indeed. Thanks Tony. This has been great.
EXPO CHICAGO is held at Navy Pier on Lake Michigan every September in downtown Chicago. www.expochicago.com.