The 10 Exhibits — Some Big, Some Small — To See at EXPO Chicago

From inflatable sculptures on the Navy Pier to a digital billboard project all over the city

September 17, 2019 7:31 am
Art on theMART will unveil new projections by Charles Atlas at EXPO 2019
Art on theMART will unveil new projections by Charles Atlas at EXPO 2019
EXPO Chicago / Facebook

It might not quite be Art Basel, but there’s nothing second rate about EXPO Chicago. With 135 galleries from 24 countries, panel discussions, book signings, special installations and more, there’s almost too much to love about this monster exposition of contemporary and modern art.  

As for where to begin with the 2019 edition, which beings this Thursday and runs through the weekend? Below, we’ve got our picks for the four exhibits you shouldn’t miss at the Navy Pier, along with six public projects around the city to keep an eye out for.

Charles Atlas, Mayonnaise Number One (Luhring Augustine)

Luhring Augustine

The New York-based gallery zeros in on video artist Charles Atlas, with both a new work and 1973’s Mayonnaise Number One, in which choreographer Douglas Dunn improvises to a painting by Édouard Manet. The same show will also feature a mini 30-year retrospective on the sculpture and photography of Janine Antoni. (Booth 109)

Amoako Boafo Steve Mekoudja 2019
Amoako Boafo (Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim Gallery)

Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

After seven years in Seattle, Ibrahim — who specializes in contemporary African artists — is relocating to Chicago, at 437 N. Paulina. Her roster on the Pier includes Ghanian painter Amoako Boafo and new work by Florine Démosthène, who’ll have a solo show at the gallery in November. (Booth 333)

Ad Minoliti Peres Projects, Berlin
Ad Minoliti (Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin)

Peres Projects

This Berlin gallery presents two wildly different types of work:  the boldly hued geometries of Argentinian Ad Minoliti, whose work often examines gender and the metaphysical, and the mosaic-like images of the streets of Douala, Cameroon, by Ajarb Bernard Ategwa. (Booth 314)

Mendes Wood DM
(Mendes Wood DM)

Mendes Wood DM

Visiting from São Paulo, this Brazilian outfit isn’t traveling light. On tap are installations from Parisian Neïl Beloufa, paintings that examine Catholicism in Brazil by Antonio Obá, and canvases that take a cue from 19th-century Italian and Spanish frescoes from Marina Simão. (Booth 129)

Not into crowds? Not to worry. There are plenty of other ways to get your EXPO fix, on and off the pier.

Ship of Tolerance
Ship of Tolerance (EXPO CHICAGO)

The Ship of Tolerance/Polk Bros. Park at Navy Pier

Conceived by artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, this traveling installation (Chicago is its 13th iteration) is an expression of inclusiveness and hope, with sails spun from the artwork of Chicago school kids. (Sept 17-Oct.6)

Charles Atlas/Art on theMART*

The veteran video artist’s first public art commission, this vividly colored composition of shapes and numbers is the latest digital display to animate the massive Chicago landmark. (Chicago River between Orleans and Clark; nightly through September 30; Wednesday – Sunday until November 20)

Floating Museum
Floating Museum (EXPO CHICAGO)

Founders Inflatable/Navy Pier

Public sculpture with a human face is pretty rare these days. This piece — a project of the arts collective, Floating Museum —  features four: Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, his wife, Kitihawa, Harold Washington, and the face of a young child. (Sept. 19-22)

Reverb/Peninsula Hotel

It’s one thing to spy cutting-edge art at boutique hotels, but the big boys usually play it safe. Not this top-tier spot. In partnership with exhibition planner Kasin, the hotel is hanging an EXPO-worthy show of work by major players James Nares, Iván Navarro and Naama Tsabar. (108 E. Superior, Sept. 20 – Oct. 20)

Assaf Evron
Assaf Evron (EXPO CHICAGO)

Collages for the Esplanade Apartments

Mies van der Rohe’s sleekly urban building gets a nature-inspired intervention from Assaf Evron, who casts an image of an Israeli mountain range across its windows. (900 N. Lake Shore Dr. Sept. 17-Oct.1)

OVERRIDE | A Billboard Project

A collaboration between EXPO and the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, this initiative really takes art to the streets, with eye-catching images from 15 artists on 28 digital billboards all over town. (Through Sept. 25;

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