Designed objects and art books come together at Medium Cool.
  • Photo by Marzena Abrahamik, nails by Naughty Nail’z
  • Designed objects and art books come together at Medium Cool.

The concept of an art book fair has become a phenomenon in the contemporary art world. Last year’s New York Art Book Fair, organized by Printed Matter and held at MoMA PS1, drew more than 27,000 visitors. Medium Cool, Chicago’s very own art book fair, now in its second year, is back this weekend with extended hours, more vendors, and a day devoted to designed objects.

Ria Roberts, a native Chicagoan, decided to start the event last summer while on break from her graduate program at Yale. “I was thinking about how much I miss and appreciate Chicago’s creative community,” she says. Her parents have an event space in the West Loop, Prairie Production, so the details came together pretty quickly. According to Roberts, the response from the community about last year’s event was overwhelmingly positive, especially considering she’d planned it all in a month.

Named for the Haskell Wexler film about the heated political summer of 1968 in Chicago, the event is something of an homage to the city, with a heavy focus on local artists and designers. More than 75 vendors will participate in the fair over the course of this weekend.

This year the event starts Saturday with an objects shop at Western Exhibitions. Roberts worked with artist Jen Choi to organize a day during which local and international artists, stores, and galleries can come together to sell designed objects. “We really want to create a platform for people to show and view thoughtfully made art objects that are also affordable,” she says. The items for sale at Western Exhibitions range from $10 to $500.

The book fair, held Sunday at Prairie Productions, features many local names such as Half Letter Press, Sonnenzimmer, and the Graham Foundation, and the items for sale are even more affordable—from $5 for Xeroxed zines to $50 for more elaborate artists’ books.

Roberts aims to use the weekend to bring people in Chicago’s artistic community together and, hopefully, foster new creative endeavors. At the very least, you can support some local artists and designers, and maybe Roberts’s high hopes will inspire someone to take the vision of Medium Cool a step farther and create a permanent space for artists’ books in the city.

The objects shop takes place on Saturday, August 9, from 10 AM-8 PM at Western Exhibitions, 845 W. Washington, second floor, 312-480-8390. The art book fair is on Sunday, August 10, from 10 AM-8 PM at Prairie Production, 1314 W. Randolph,