Chicago to Washington: No Go

The “Chicago Festival at the Kennedy Center” won’t happen in 1990. The hopes of more than a dozen local performing-arts groups were dashed this week when it became apparent that the necessary funds could not be raised. There’s hope that the festival will be rescheduled for 1992, but that undoubtedly will depend on a number of circumstances.

Some local arts executives who expected to see their groups on the nation’s stage were critical of the Kennedy Center’s efforts to raise the $3 million-plus needed to produce the festival. The Kennedy Center apparently intended to find one major sponsor to underwrite the festival. When they belatedly discovered that such a funder would not be forthcoming, they rushed to round up a number of smaller underwriters, to no avail. “They never came to us in Chicago and asked for our help in securing the funding,” says one executive with a local group slated to appear. “By the time we got wind that they were having trouble, it was too late for us to do anything.”

Gail Kalver, managing director of the Hubbard Street Dance Company, says she intends to pursue a Kennedy Center engagement this summer anyway. “We had a letter of intent to appear at the Kennedy Center,” she says. “We’re going to find out if it’s worth anything.” The dance company had turned down other offers in order to participate in the Washington festival. The Goodman Theatre, which had planned to present its production of She Always Said, Pablo, had been ready to sign a contract with the Kennedy Center. “We are continuing negotiations,” says Goodman producing director Roche Schulfer.

ABT to Expand Its Chicago Season?

American Ballet Theatre is talking about boosting its presence in Chicago, a move that could hinder efforts to establish a major local ballet company. The New York-based company’s recently appointed executive director, Jane Hermann, met quietly last week with executives from the Civic Center for Performing Arts to discuss the company’s relationship with the facility over the next decade. Among the matters broached, say sources at the Civic, was the possibility of expanding the company’s annual season here to three weeks from the current two. Sources said that such a move would be part of an ABT plan to sit down longer in major markets to reduce the exorbitant costs of touring the huge company. While our fledgling Ballet Chicago is still trying to find its financial footing, the prestigious ABT demonstrated last week that it can bring out the big spenders in town. More than 600 supporters paid $250 apiece to attend ABT’s 50th-anniversary birthday program at the Civic Opera House. Were the popular ABT to establish an expanded presence in the city several years hence, it could siphon off a significant segment of the audience–and financial backing–that might otherwise support a local company that needs all the support it can get. But some observers contend more ballet can only help expand the overall audience for dance in town. Time will tell.

Pop Goes the Art World

Neopop artist Robert Longo can’t complain about the exposure he’s getting around here. Longo is the focus of a major exhibit opening this weekend at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and, though it wasn’t planned to coincide with the MCA showing, another show featuring his work–“Andy [Warhol] and His Children”–also opens this weekend at the Kass/Meridian Gallery in River North. Longo is one of the artists benefiting from intensified interest in pop art in the wake of Warhol’s death in 1987.

“Warhol is no longer affordable for many young collectors,” explains art dealer Alan Kass. “But some of the work of his proteges is.” Taking a hint from Warhol and the post-Warhol generation of pop artists such as Longo, Ronnie Cutrone, Keith Haring, and Mark Kostabi–artists who “have learned the value of self-promotion,” as Kass puts it–both Kass/Meridian and the MCA are promoting their shows heavily. Kass brought in author/photographer Michael McKenzie this week to lecture on how to participate in and profit from art investments in the 1990s. He also expects that Longo will be present at the gallery’s opening reception. Meanwhile the MCA, in conjunction with exhibit sponsor. AT&T, is planning to wine and dine Longo and members of the cultural press at Bice. Attendees at the MCA’s opening night are also invited to a postopening party for Longo at the Traffic Jam nightclub.

The Gallery at the End of the Earth

The art scene’s curious element made the trek last Sunday to the unfamiliar environs of 400 N. Morgan for the opening of Klein Art Works, which has to be the city’s first gallery with a steel floor. Local dealers who surveyed the scene said they admired what their colleague Paul Klein had wrought in his new space, but expressed doubts about whether collectors would be willing to find Klein in his new home far from the rest of the clan in River North. Klein’s gallery is across the street from a factory that manufactures rubber boat parts and down the street from a fish processing plant and a lanolin factory. No taxis or foot traffic were anywhere in sight around the gallery. But if Klein is worried about the location, he wasn’t admitting it last week.

The $7,000 Blue-Jean Jacket

Will the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s “Denim by Design” benefit reach its ambitious goal of $400,000? That depends in large measure on how much attendees take to the 83-plus denim jackets to be auctioned at the affair, scheduled for February 23 at the Hotel Nikko Chicago. The jackets have been created by leading fashion designers from all over the world. Most of them will be sold by silent auction, but the 10 or 15 deemed most desirable will go to the highest bidders during a live auction. One benefit attendee says he has permission from an interested party who’ll be unable to attend the auction to offer up to $7,000 for one particular denim creation.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul L. Meredith.