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19th Annual SOFA CHICAGO Wraps with Strong Sales and Vibrant Programming
ArtfixDaily , 03.12.2012

SOFA CHICAGO, Sculpture Objects Functional Art + Design Fair, returned to Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on November 2-4 with exuberant crowds of art enthusiasts and collectors. Produced by The Art Fair Company, SOFA CHICAGO 2012 featured more than 60 dealers from 11 countries who exhibited to 32,000 fairgoers over the course of the weekend. A record number of 3,000 people attended 29 lectures that took place in addition to the five special exhibits on the show floor. 300 artists were on-site at SOFA, some discussing their work at the 42 booth events, which included talks, book signings and film screenings, exceeding previous years by double.

SOFA CHICAGO’s Opening Night Preview drew 2,800 guests that came to get a first look at art and objects from around the world. The evening began with welcoming remarks and a ribbon cutting by Italian glass Maestro Lino Tagliapietra in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement. Civic officials and cultural community VIPs were also on hand to acknowledge Tagliapietra, including Michelle Boone, Commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Daniel Schulman, Program Director for Visual Art of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Silvio Marchetti, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute; Alessandro Motta, Consul General of Italy in Chicago; sponsor representatives Joanna McNamara, Strategic Development Manager at Chubb Personal Insurance and Scott Zuercher, Area General Manager of Audi of America, Inc. Stephen Rolfe Powell, a longtime friend of Tagliapietra’s and a fellow glass artist represented by Habatat Galleries, introduced the artist to kick off the Opening Night Preview.

“Celebrating this important anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement was a wonderful way to commence SOFA CHICAGO, and we are honored that civic officials, our sponsors, VIPs and collectors came to take part in this historical milestone,” said Donna Davies, Director of SOFA CHICAGO. She continued, “As we approach our own landmark 20th anniversary in November of 2013, SOFA will continue to be an important fair for collectors, dealers and artists alike.”

Crowded Aisles and Strong Sales
Dealers relayed positive reactions to their sales, and enjoyed the mix of seasoned collectors and newcomers that visited SOFA over the course of the weekend. Historical and contemporary glass on view in conjunction with the anniversary celebration boosted glass sales. On Opening Night, PISMO Fine Art Glass (Denver) sold the glass kimono Spring Dawn by Markow & Norris for $125,000, and Hawk Galleries (Columbus) sold several glass pieces and William Morris’ life-size bronze Rhyton Bull sculpture for $325,000 over the weekend.

The vivacious buying crowd attended SOFA CHICAGO because of the high quality and variety of artwork presented from dealers from around the world. Jim Schantz, owner/director of Schantz Galleries (Stockbridge, Mass) observed, “SOFA CHICAGO 2012 was certainly one of the highest quality shows to date. Our gallery’s feature exhibition of Lino Tagliapietra's newest works drew a great deal of attention. We have already placed three major works and saw a great response from collectors and museums interested in the Lino’s new glass panels. They are a testament to Lino's unending creativity and continual fascination with the glass medium as an art form.”

Many SOFA CHICAGO dealers commented on the good sales despite the impact of the East Coast’s Hurricane Sandy. “Having fled New York City just ahead of the hurricane we were very pleased to be in Chicago, said Doug Heller of Heller Gallery (New York). “SOFA was far busier than we expected and we enjoyed good sales across the board for our newest artists as well as the established masters. It was especially gratifying that the Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison acquired a Jeannet Iskandar sculpture for their collection.”

Duane Reed Gallery (St. Louis) sold a large Jun Kaneko Dango piece Opening Night that will become a part of the Racine Art Museum’s collection, said owner/director Duane Reed. “The Opening Night of SOFA CHICAGO 2012 was one of our largest in the history of the gallery's participation in the SOFA fairs and throughout the weekend there was a steady stream of sales almost across the board. We had strong sales of other Jun Kaneko work as well as pieces by Jiyong Lee, Danny Perkins, Margaret Keelan and Joseph Cavalieri. It will take us weeks to ship all of the work to collectors from the show.”

Wexler Gallery (Philadelphia) cited that the crowd was very enthusiastic, particularly about work by Andy Paiko, Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, all of which sold very well. "SOFA CHICAGO was a stellar show for the Wexler Gallery,” said Lewis Wexler. “We found the secondary glass market was particularly strong, with major sales of museum quality work. Design pieces by Howard Werner and Vivian Beer found homes in major private collections.”

Floating World Gallery (Chicago) sold multiple works by Niyoko Ikuta, who was “warmly received by SOFA CHICAGO,” said gallery representative Elias Martin. “All of her Ku forms (swirling circular glass sculptures) sold out ($6,000 - $25,000) with three of the pieces priced at $20,000 and up.”

Habatat Galleries (Royal Oak, Mich.) had numerous positive reactions to the variety of collectors at SOFA CHICAGO 2012, mentioning many people visiting were new to glass sculpture. Ferdinand Hampson owner of Habatat Galleries said, “We experienced a greater level of enthusiasm and a greater interest in acquiring significant works.” In our 25 years of doing SOFA art fairs in Chicago this year was the best Habatat Galleries has had in sales to this day!”

Corey Hampson, also of Habatat Galleries, continued, “Highlights for Habatat included Howard Ben Tre’s sculpture Lightness of Being which was purchased by a prominent Midwestern museum for $190,000. Private collectors went crazy over Davide Salvadore and Shelley Allen’s collaboration; cast glass by German artist Michael Berhens; Martin Janecky’s newest body of work; and newcomer Vivian Wang who developed a waiting list for collectors wanting to acquire her new work.”

Ippodo Gallery (Tokyo & New York) sold work by Junko Narita, Ryoji Koie, Koji Hatakeyama, purchased, as well as multiple pieces by Yui Tsujimura, Midori Tsukada, and Shinya Yamamura. Charon Kransen of Charon Kransen Arts also reported good sales during the Opening Night Preview. “A Liv Blavarp necklace went right away and the vessels of Mizuko Yamada also drew a lot of attention,” he said. “We sold well across the board.”

Notable sales were also made by Litvak Gallery (Tel Aviv), where Director Orit Ephrat-Moscovitz said that it was “a pleasure to be a part of SOFA at this 50th anniversary of the Studio Glass Movement. Our sales at SOFA CHICAGO were good, and we sold pieces by Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová ($105,000), Vaclav Cigler ($76,000), Dale Chihuly ($50,000) and Peter Bremers ($37,500).”

The Opening Night Preview proved to be especially exciting and emotional for some dealers and collectors. “Within the first five minutes of opening night we had two very interested collectors vying for the large Viola Frey Grandmother sculpture. One needed a few moments to think about the purchase and the other needed no time to make the deal,” said Leonard Schneier of Donna Schneier Fine Arts (Palm Beach.) “I have never seen the emotion then displayed—the collector that did not acquire the piece stood in front of the art and cried.”

Gallery Consultant Jerry Austin of flow (London) said this was the first time the gallery had been at SOFA CHICAGO, and he was impressed with the crowd that appears to have a heritage of collecting, often buying out of passion for the work.

"The energy on the floor was high this year, and we felt that clients came with the intention of adding to their collections... not just to look," said Duff Lindsay of

Lindsay Gallery (Columbus), a gallery that specializes in folk and outsider art.

Sarah Myerscough Fine Art (London), a new exhibitor at SOFA CHICAGO, also reported good sales on their presentation of turned wood vessels, and Sarah Myerscough mentioned that her gallery sold pieces at a variety of price points. Pieces by Benjamin Planitzer, a new artist to Myerscough’s gallery and to SOFA CHICAGO, completely sold out.

A vast number of wood, ceramics, design, jewelry and fiber pieces sold to collectors during the weekend of SOFA CHICAGO. SOFA newcomer Craft Scotland (Edinburgh) sold several steambent Scottish oak pieces by Angus Ross and a large fiber piece by Lizzie Farey.

“SOFA was powerful,” said Tom Riley of Riley Galleries (Cleveland) “We were pleased to place a major Sally Rogers sculpture, two major Lucy Lyon sculptures and three Hiroshi pieces from his new series, showing the astuteness of SOFA's attendees. We also did well with our emphasis on emerging artists.”

Philip and Barbara Silverberg, owners of Option Art (Montreal) saw enthusiastic responses to sales of pieces by Marjolein Dallinga, Jay Macdonell, Mel Munsen and Janis Kerman, while new exhibitor Hedone Gallery (Leonia NJ) sold pieces by Ayesha Mayadas, Bongsang Cho and Reiko Ishiyama. ten472 Contemporary Art (Grass Valley CA) sold a remarkable 13 pieces by Theodore Gall, as well as pieces by Kirk H. Slaughter and Elisabett Gudmann.

David Eichholtz of David Richard Gallery (Santa Fe) also felt his gallery had a successful show. He said there were “numerous sales at the show of artwork by Toots Zynsky, the team of Philip Baldwin and Monica Guggisberg, and Harue Shimomoto, as well as several commissions for each artist.” Ceramics collectors were also eager to purchase new works at SOFA CHICAGO. Oz Zingaro’s (Tokyo) director, Nao Tazaki, said works by Shigeru Otani and Shin Murata sold.

Lucy Lacoste, of Lacoste Gallery (Concord Mass.) said of her experience at SOFA, “The pinnacle was selling a triptych by Anne Currier, an American Craft Council award winner. Viewpoint ($12,500) is a museum quality historic work of hers from 1997 that sold to a Chicago collector. We’re happy to know it’s staying there in the city where she started her ceramic education.”

“I was really pleased with the energy and enthusiasm from collectors at SOFA CHICAGO this year,” said Mindy Solomon of Mindy Solomon Gallery (St. Petersburg). “We sold a record number of pieces, and sold out of work by David Peters, creating a lot of buzz about his ceramic vessels.”

Aron Packer of Packer Schopf Gallery (Chicago) felt SOFA was a good fit for his gallery. “We inhabit the edge of working with artists who use alternative materials. Whether it's Matthew Cox's embroidered x-rays, Brian Dettmer's altered books, or Specimen Products' Liederhorn speakers, SOFA presents a platform for us to be perceived in a superior manner, and there is no way to measure the incredible exposure we receive from exhibiting this year,” he said.

Ian Schneller of Specimen Products, represented by Packer Schopf Gallery, agreed, "The entire weekend at SOFA CHICAGO 2012 was energized by thoughtful conversations and inspiration from visitors and fellow artists. It was extraordinarily gratifying to witness the visitors responding to the functionality of my horn speakers and tube amps,” he said. “In the midst of the East Coast weather crisis and the impending election, this exhibit proved that art can still captivate and prevail." Schneller also designed the standout speakers above SOFA CHICAGO’s quattro café.

Maria Elena Kravetz of Maria Elena Kravetz (Cordoba, Argentina) said sales were good, and that an important piece by Mexican artist Rodrigo Lara Zendejas was sold at the beginning of the Opening Night to a prominent collector. She also commented, “David Royce, a young glass artist from the US, had important sales in his first presentation at SOFA as did the Argentinian glass artist Ruben Fasani.”

Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) is one of the non-profit organizations that has been a regular presenter at SOFA CHICAGO, and in their seventh year, has become a familiar favorite of fair attendees. In addition to the six Turkish artists that helped bring a record number of sales to the Turkish Cultural Foundation’s booth this year, three of the artists, Ipek Kotan, Cetin Ates and Belgin Yucelen, hosted well-attended booth talks on their work and the inspiration behind it.

"SOFA helps bring a slice of Turkey's vibrant contemporary art scene to America and introduce tens of thousands of art enthusiasts to their work. We were thrilled with the warm reception of our featured Turkish artists," said Sanel San, coordinator of Armaggan Art and Design Gallery in Istanbul, who helped curate the TCF showcase at SOFA CHICAGO 2012. “One of our core goals at TCF is to build people-to-people cultural exchanges between Turkey and the United States and create international art opportunities for Turkish artists. Participating in the SOFA fairs has served this mission very well.”

Longtime local dealer Ann Nathan of Ann Nathan Gallery summed up SOFA CHICAGO 2012, by describing it as a stand-up show with, “wondrous work in the booths, exciting audience and masterfully complete. Long live SOFA!”

Eclectic Programming and Events

SOFA CHICAGO VIP cardholders had the opportunity to take part in a total of 22 tours, lectures and special events, both on and off-site. Well-received events included tours at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, Crab Tree Farm, and private collection visits. Additionally, VIPs took part in talks at SOFA with gallerist Maurine Littleton and museum director Jan Smith, and artists including Thom Norris, Eric Markow (PISMO Fine Art Glass), and Tamara Coatsworth (Palette Contemporary Art & Craft). A design reception and talk with Chicago Home + Garden magazine’s editor Gina Bazer and interior designers Laurel Feldman and Kara Mann was also presented during the fair in the VIP Lounge.

Additional lectures offered to all SOFA CHICAGO attendees included two panel discussions with a group of pioneers of the Studio Glass Movement, a discussion on contemporary textile art by Dr. Jessica Hemmings, recipient of the SOFA 2011 New Voices research grant, “SNAG Emerging Artists 2012” featuring emerging jewelry artists Heejin Hwang, Andrew Kuebeck, and Emanuela Duca, and “Fiber Art: Five Voices, Five Views” presented by Friends of Fiber Art International.

Special exhibits on the show floor included “Among Fellows: An Exhibition of Work by the 2012 College of Fellow,” presented by the American Craft Council; “Bags Across the Globe (BAG),” presented by Design Department, University of California, Davis; “Eye of Mr. I: A Tribute,” presented by Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chicago; “Gothic Jewelry: Sinister Pleasures,” Metalsmith's 2012 curated Exhibition in Print; and “What is Beautiful? Changing Perspectives in Contemporary Wood Art,” presented by Collectors of Wood Art.

Sponsors and Partners

For the eighth straight year, SOFA CHICAGO was sponsored by Chubb Personal Insurance, one of the world’s preeminent insurers of fine homes, art, antiques, jewelry, automobiles, yachts and other prized possessions. Chubb hosted a private reception during Opening Night Preview for 500 guests in the SOFA CHICAGO Chubb Personal Insurance VIP Lounge as well as the lecture Craft and New Technology: A Continuum of Creativity presented by Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Friday, Nov. 2.

"We are impressed with the exceptional galleries and talented artists that SOFA brings to Chicago each year," said Joanna McNamara, of Chubb Personal Insurance. Chubb has provided insurance for large collections of fine art, jewelry and decorative arts for more than 130 years and has sponsored SOFA Chicago for the past eight years.

Audi, one of the most respected makers of luxury cars, proudly sponsored SOFA CHICAGO’s extensive VIP programming including lectures in the Audi Conversation Space and other off-site VIP events. Events presented in the Audi VIP Conversation Space included a film screening, “The Toledo Workshop Revisited, 1962-2012” about the launch of the Studio Glass Movement. Audi’s newest model, A8, was on display near the fair entrance and near the quattro café on the show floor, and attracted the attention of fairgoers throughout the weekend. Selected VIP cardholders were also shuttled around CHICAGO in Audi’s new A8Ls.

“It was flattering to have so many of the show attendees visit our Audi display and remark how well our beautifully designed Audi A8 fit in to SOFA!,” said Scott Zuercher of Audi of America, Inc.

Duvel, the original Strong Ale from Belgium, was a first-time partner with SOFA CHICAGO—serving as this year’s official beer sponsor. Additional sponsors include American Airlines, the official airline of SOFA CHICAGO 2012, and media partners Michigan Avenue magazine, along with Time Out Chicago and Chicago Public Radio.

“We are proud to wrap another fabulous SOFA CHICAGO,” said Mark Lyman, President of The Art Fair Company. “From our humble beginnings in the basement of the Sheraton Hotel to this year, approaching our 20th anniversary, we look forward to continuing to bring an impressive array of art to Navy Pier.”

Looking ahead, The Art Fair Company will present the second edition of The METRO Show at the Metropolitan Pavilion January 24-27, 2013, and The Art and Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA) Spring Show NYC, May 2-5, 2013.
SOFA CHICAGO will return to Navy Pier to celebrate its landmark 20th year on November 1-3, 2013, with the Opening Night Preview, Thursday October, 31. For more information and fair updates visit
Source : ArtfixDaily