This is the first thing I saw when I walked into Expo Chicago last night:


“That’s the story of my life,” I told the gallery owner, a slim man with artistic glasses. (Many people at Expo have artistic glasses.)

“You’re not alone,” he told me.

We agreed that a cigarette butt holding a sign that said that, though, would spoil the art. (The piece is by Jon Pylychuk, and it’s called I Won’t Give Up On You, which kind of spoils it, too.

Here’s another view. There was a woman just outside the frame who was cracking up.


I’m pretty sure those are the only cigarette butts on view inside Expo. Noah Berlatsky listed the essential things to see, but the Navy Pier Festival Hall is so huge, I missed almost all of them. That is why Expo lasts three days (and one opening night). It probably takes that long to take it all in.

Heads by Francisco (Paco) Esnaya

This year the organizers have created a new app that allows you to visualize the art you are thinking about buying in your very own living room. This would probably be very handy if you are a potential buyer. I am not—I work for a free newspaper, after all—although a picture framer named Ian who was hanging around the Border Crossing Mexico/USA booth tried to convince me I could be.

“All this stuff is really very cheap,” he told me. “That piece over there is only $7,000, and that one is $900.” I didn’t even bother to see where he was pointing. “Well, I live in central Mexico,” he said, after I explained I was just a reporter and showed him my press pass. “I have a gardener, cook, and a maid, and I pay them only $100 a week. My property taxes are $50 a year. And I pay $200 a year for gas. My friends there tell people not to visit them because it’s really bad. There are enough of us there already. And if you quote me on any of this, I’ll kill you.”

As it turned out, the pieces I was admiring in that booth were $10,000.

More heads by Esnaya. I thought at first they were beer taps.
  • Aimee Levitt
  • More heads by Esnaya. I thought at first they were beer taps.

Over at Catherine Edelman Gallery’s booth, three of the pieces from Sandro Miller’s upcoming exhibit “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich” were on display and had attracted quite a crowd. There was a binder on the table with smaller prints of the remaining photos. Oddly enough, the inspiration for one of Miller’s photos, American Gothic by Gordon Parks, was also on display at Expo, at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

Because this is Chicago, Theaster Gates was represented. And if he says a Harold’s sign is art, it must be so.



Although The Beast has left the Hyde Park Art Center, John Preus is still repurposing furniture from closed Chicago Public Schools. He created this vanity and prototype for administrative office chairs in collaboration with Kevin Reiswig.

Preus is represented by the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, which also represents one of my very favorite installations in the show: The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist by Michael Rakowitz, another Chicago artist. (Berlatsky liked it, too.) Rakowitz re-created artifacts from the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad out of cardboard, newspaper, and wrappers. He juxtaposed them with quotes from historians, politicians, and ordinary citizens. You, the viewer, can sift through them like an archaeologist and reconstruct what happened. (Or you can look at the explainer text, but I found it much more moving going in unwarned.)


Maybe that’s the best thing about Expo: it’s your chance to discover things for yourself.