Inside Chicago's Booming Art Scene

Vanessa Murrell , DAZED, April 28, 2022

Dazed meets the artists transforming Chicago’s artscape – a scene now characterised by its DIY culture, camaraderie, and love of the city. 


In Chicago, artists initiate interdisciplinary and intergenerational exhibitions in their backyards, basements, showers, and even in their flower vases. It’s the spirit of experimentation fostered by the city’s academic institutions, especially the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which cultivates a multitude of talented artists each year.


According to Kate Sierzputowski, co-director of Julius Caesar and programming head of EXPO Chicago 2022, these shoestring projects are prone to extinction and rebirth from their rapid burn-out. It’s unsustainable to produce shows every six weeks in a filthy, leaky space on top of operating a practice and job. MICKEY, which began as grassroots venue Courtney Blaze in 2010, underwent a process of “forced upscaling and metamorphosis” in 2018 to remain viable.


The gallery, which is committed to advancing artists’ careers, aims to build long-term relationships with collectors and acknowledges that sales alone do not forecast success. Nevertheless, legitimisation makes it harder to organise shows purely for fun. With its playful approach, Barely Fair, which launched in 2019, aims to bridge this gap by combining emerging and established galleries in one international, miniature art fair. Tables lower than belly height allow viewers to peek into dollhouse-sized booths.


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