From the excitement of the opening preview on Thursday evening, which kicked off November 3rd, through the few dozen last stragglers clearing out on late Sunday afternoon, SOFA CHICAGO 2011 officially came to a close at 6 PM on November 6th, having drawn thousands to Navy Pier to see the work of artists working in craft media (metal, ceramics, wood, fiber, and glass). This year’s show was artfully arranged to disguise the smaller number of exhibiting art dealers, which only a few years ago, filled the exhibition area to the walls. Unused floor space was curtained off behind the dramatically lit cafe area, and the smaller number of art dealers was offset by the inclusion of the Intuit Outsider Art Fair again this year. (The outsider art fair also seemed slightly smaller than last year in terms of the number of gallery exhibitors.) Glass was very prominent and well represented, and while reports varied, some dealers reported strong results this year.
“For the first time in three years, we noticed that people are able to come in and make a decision to buy a piece,” Jim Schantz of Schantz Galleries told the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet. “Previously there would be a lot more discussion before a decision was made.” Schantz devoted its entire display area to new work by Lino Tagliapietra, including his boldly patterned vessels made with oversized murrini and canes created using Bullseye Glass. Among the biggest ticket sales at SOFA 2011 was the $300,000 sale of the 1999 George glass panel that was featured in the Tagliapietra retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Glass in 2008.
Over at Blue Rain Gallery, executive director Peter Stoessel was very happy with his fifth year exhibiting at Navy Pier. “We had a very good show,” he said. “The best show to date since 2007.” Not only did Blue Rain’s focus on a collaboration between Preston Singletary and Dante Marioni pay off (17 out of 20 works had sold by Sunday afternoon), other artists working in glass such as Rik Allen were also seeing solid sales.
Litvak Gallery, which had upped the ante at SOFA fairs in 2009 and 2010 with sprawling exhibition displays that included large black-box galleries, scaled things back for 2011. While Litvak had built an enclosed gallery to show new work by Dale Chihuly, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based gallery’s overall footprint was smaller. Muly Litvak told the Hot Sheet that although he held back a bit, he also sold well enough that the end result will be a similar profit. “Optimsim is back,” said Litvak. “Our clients are collecting again seriously, and we are seeing that as well at our gallery in Israel, where we hosted Chihuly’s first major exhibition there since his Jerusalem project in 2000.
While Duane Reed Gallery was seeing brisk sales of the work of Laura Donefer and Danny Perkins, other dealers reported more mixed results. Bullseye Gallery started the show very strongly with several sales of Kate Baker‘s work during the opening night event, but subsequent sales of other exhibiting artists were slow. To take the temperature of SOFA 2011, and to provide an idea of what types of work was selling briskly, the GLASS Quarterly Hot Sheet presents an expanded Red Dot Report below, a random sampling of successful sales, including prices.
—Andrew Page with additional reporting by Ali Aschman, Diana Buendia, Xiaomeng Li, and Evangeline Michelle Politis.