Detail of Kerry James Marshall's Rythm Mastr Daily Strip (2017), at David Zwirner's Expo Chicago booth Credit: Deanna Isaacs

One thing about Expo Chicago, it’s ephemeral: see the 2018 edition this weekend or not at all. 

If you do trek out to the far end of the newly upscale and jarringly sanitized Navy Pier, you’ll be rewarded with a chance to walk, walk, and walk some more while perusing the offerings of 135 mostly high-end international art galleries. They include some eye-grabbing installations, like this visually bouncy basketball court by William LaChance, a Saint Louis artist here under the auspices of a London gallery, Beers. 

Detail of an installation by William LaChance at Beers London
Detail of an installation by William LaChance at Beers LondonCredit: Deanna Isaacs

You’re also not likely to miss Ann Agee’s elaborate, blue-and-white-tiled  Lake Michigan Bathroom (at the booth of New York’s P.P.O.W. gallery).  Described as “an ornate monument to bodily function, public health, factory production, and the economy of water,” it’s complete with toilet, urinal, and sink. The Brooklyn-based artist created it during a two-year residency at the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. 

Detail of Ann Agee's <i>Lake Michigan Bathroom</i> (1992), at P.P.O.W.
Detail of Ann Agee’s Lake Michigan Bathroom (1992), at P.P.O.W.Credit: Deanna Isaacs

It’s no coincidence that work by members of the Hairy Who—the subject of a big, happy, historical exhibit that opened this week at the Art Institute of Chicago—crops up at multiple booths. Corbett vs. Dempsey, for one, is showing a handsome example of Art Green’s color-drenched surrealism—a 1971 painting titled Authoritative Source. And ProjectArt, which brings art classes for kids to public libraries, has a novel curatorial concept: an exhibit of childhood work by artists who are now well-known; it includes Gladys Nilsson’s self-portrait at the age of 14, and an unbelievably mature piece by six-year-old Karl Wirsum.   

A Karl Wirsum self-portrait done at age six  (1945), at ProjectArt
A Karl Wirsum self-portrait done at age six (1945), at ProjectArtCredit: Deanna Isaacs

Worth the trek all by itself:  amazing quilts by Bisa Butler, on display at the booth of New York’s Clair Oliver Gallery. Butler’s a Harlem-based artist so adept I wondered if her work was computer assisted. It’s not.  She told me that she creates patterns from photographs, and a single quilt takes hundreds of hours’ of work.  The result is like painting with fabric.

Bisa Butler, <i>Southside Sunday Morning</i>, at Claire Oliver Gallery
Bisa Butler, Southside Sunday Morning, at Claire Oliver GalleryCredit: Deanna Isaacs

The selfie opportunities are irresistible, even for those—like Chicago artist Abraxas Karriema Thomas—who don’t usually indulge. I spotted her  joining the family in Deana Lawson’s photograph Barbara and Mother at Rhona Hoffman’s booth. 

Abraxas Karriema Thomas and Deana Lawson's <i>Barbara and Mother</i>, at Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Abraxas Karriema Thomas and Deana Lawson’s Barbara and Mother, at Rhona Hoffman GalleryCredit: Deanna Isaacs

It’ll all vanish after Sunday—till next year. In an announcement of partnerships on Thursday, Expo director Tony Karman said the fair will return to Navy Pier on September 19-22, 2019, when it’ll coincide with the opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. 

Expo Chicago continues Saturday 9/29, 11 AM-7 PM, and Sunday, 9/30, 11 AM-6 PM, at Navy Pier. A one-day pass is $20, $15 students and seniors. On Saturday from 1 to 6 PM in the Aon Grand Ballroom, art historian and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist will conduct Creative Chicago: An Interview Marathon.

Expo Chicago 2018, at Navy Pier
Expo Chicago 2018, at Navy PierCredit: Deanna Isaacs