18th Annual SOFA CHICAGO 2011 and The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art Wraps with Strong Sales, Sophisticated Crowds, New Collectors

  • Louis Michel Eilshemius, Snake Dancer, c.  1916-1922, oil on canvas, 31.5 x 17 inches.  Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, NY.

    Louis Michel Eilshemius, Snake Dancer, c. 1916-1922, oil on canvas, 31.5 x 17 inches. Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York, NY.

  • John Kiley, Double Concentric, 2011, blown, carved, and polished glass, 11 x 10.5 x 6.5.  photo: Jeff Curtis.  Traver Gallery, Seattle, WA.

    John Kiley, Double Concentric, 2011, blown, carved, and polished glass, 11 x 10.5 x 6.5. photo: Jeff Curtis. Traver Gallery, Seattle, WA.

  • Hanging Cupboard Berks or Lebanon County, PA, c.  1780, Ex.  Robert Burkhart, Ex: Col.  Richard and JoAnne Smith, 27 x 11 x 24 ,Cigar Store Indian.  Outsider Folk Art Gallery, Reading, PA.

    Hanging Cupboard Berks or Lebanon County, PA, c. 1780, Ex. Robert Burkhart, Ex: Col. Richard and JoAnne Smith, 27 x 11 x 24 ,Cigar Store Indian. Outsider Folk Art Gallery, Reading, PA.

The 18th annual Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair: SOFA CHICAGO 2011 and its companion fair, The Intuit Show of Folk and Outsider Art, enjoyed a very successful run Nov. 4 – 6 at Navy Pier. Produced by The Art Fair Company, more than 80 international SOFA and Intuit dealers from 13 countries wowed an estimated 30,000 fairgoers over the weekend. Over 2,600 persons attended Thursday’s Opening Night during the course of the evening, and SOFA sponsor Chubb Personal Insurance feted 350 guests at a private reception in the Chubb VIP Lounge. Decorated by noted architect/designer Suzanne Lovell, the Chubb Lounge was a welcome retreat from the busy show floor for over 500 VIP cardholders. 9 Special Exhibits greeted fairgoers and 1,500 persons attended 30 Lecture Series presentations featuring world-renowned curators, collectors, critics, artists, and dealers.

SOFA Show Director Donna Davies said the fair was a resounding success: “We’re very pleased. Dealers reported an energetic, buying crowd and high price-point sales. Some were ecstatic and said this was their best SOFA ever. They also reported more curators and young collectors on the show floor. It was a great fair!”

Chicago’s own Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art teamed up with The Art Fair Company to present The Intuit Show alongside SOFA CHICAGO for the second straight year. Cleo Wilson, Intuit’s Executive Director, said, “From visitors to SOFA and the Intuit Show, dealers and collectors, we have heard nothing but praise. This is an incredibly perfect marriage of two complementary art shows.”

Energetic, Buying Crowd

Schantz Galleries (Stockbridge, MA) showcased new works by famed Venetian maestro of intaglio glass sculpture, Lino Tagliapietra. Director Jim Schantz said, “This has been a very positive show. We have a $300,000 panel by Lino Tagliapietra out on approval at a major museum for their collection. All our clients at the fair have been from out of state, in Chicago for SOFA. Traffic on the show floor has been very busy and steady, with consistent high energy. In fact, it’s been so busy we have not been able to take a lunch break the whole show!” Schantz sold a number of Tagliapietra masterworks on Opening Night and throughout the weekend (all offered in the $70,000 range!)

Muly Litvak of Litvak Gallery (Tel Aviv) said “Optimism is back. Our clients are collecting again seriously, and we are seeing this at the fair as well at our gallery in Israel, where we hosted Chihuly’s first major exhibition since his Jerusalem project in 2000.” Among Litvak sales were two sculptures by Vaclav Cigler, Czech master of optical glass, as well as pieces by Lukas Mjartan and Bohimul Elias (all selling in the $35,000 – $50,000 range).

Carole Hochman, Director of New York’s Barry Friedman Ltd. said, “We sold a major William Morris work to a local Chicago collector who is new to our gallery, and a Laura de Santillana piece to the Museum of Art and Design in New York. The show went well; it was a good crowd with a lot of out of state collectors in town for SOFA.”  Hochman added, “I really enjoyed [participating in] the Designer Breakfast. Establishing relationships between artists, interior designers, and galleries is very important.” Julia Halperin, Assistant Editor at Art + Auction and ARTINFO moderated the well-attended 4th annual Friday morning Designer Breakfast panel on design furniture, featuring Hochman; architect/designer Suzanne Lovell, Owner, Suzanne Lovell Inc., Chicago and New York; and Lewis Wexler, Owner, Wexler Gallery. An estimated 75 invitees filled the SOFA café, enjoying the discussion and exclusive preview before the fair opened to the general public. Wexler Gallery reported major sales of design furniture including chairs by Philip Anduatz (offered at $18,000) and Vivian Beer ($6,000). Wexler also sold a classic Libensky/Brychtova glass sculpture and a Dan Dailey piece, both in the $70,000 range.

Pippa McArdle of first-time SOFA dealer Bespoke Global (New York) said, “The crowd here is really amazing—they are passionate, educated consumers, champions of the art world, and very open-minded. We've received several inquiries for commissioned pieces by furniture artists Michael Coffey and Brian Fireman, and Heather Palmer’s wall pieces, and sold several pieces of luminary art. It's very exciting to be a part of SOFA. We are thrilled to be included.”

Douglas Heller of Heller Gallery (New York) said, “It’s a good crowd, and I have seen a lot of museum directors and curators on the floor. We have sold to both old and new clients, and have had a great response to our Russian artist Josepha Gasch-Muche (selling in the $35,000+ range).” Also selling well at Heller were sculptures in glass by Marc Petrovic, Tobias Mohl (four+, including a large format wall installation), and Nicole Chesney, all in the $15,000 – $30,000 range. 

New dealer Robert Thalen of Thalen & Thalen Sprl/iii Gallery (Francorchamps, Belgium) said, “We've received many, many fantastic, warm responses to our Windy City Mega Bowl—made especially for the fair, from 40 pounds of silver!—and its unveiling on Opening Night. The audience was surprised to see contemporary silver work at SOFA, and we are very pleased to be here.” Thalen & Thalen sold a number of its small and one large mega bowl on offer in the $100,000 range.

ntuit Show dealer George Viener, Owner of Outsider Folk Art Gallery (Reading, PA), said, “This is a great audience of people who have never seen outsider artwork before. Our buyers have been all new clients to self-taught art. And, the returning audience from last year has been more comfortable and confident with the work as well.” Emily Branch, Director, added, “We sold a large Jim Bloom painting to new buyers on Opening Night who spotted it from across the fair, rushed over and had to have it. They carried it off the wall!”

In addition to self-taught art, there were significant folk art sales at The Intuit Show. Aarne Anton, Director of American Primitive Gallery (New York) said, “It’s a good crowd. Our button suit [anonymous] sold the first day, a major item worn by queens and kings in parades in London in the 20s and 30s.”  Top outsider and visionary art selling included Martin Ramirez drawings at Ricco/Maresca Gallery (New York), and photographs by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and paintings by Reverend Howard Finster at Russell Bowman Art Advisory (Chicago).

Donna Schneier of Donna Schneier Fine Arts (Palm Beach and New York), said, “We have seen many curators and young collectors in this year’s crowd. On Friday, we sold major pieces from many important artists: Jun Kaneko, Dale Chihuly, Beatrice Wood, William Morris, and our two ‘star’ pieces of the show— an important wall hanging [fiber work] by Olga de Amaral, and a large-scale ceramic sculpture by Michael Lucero [all selling in the $5,000 – $55,000 range].”

Ceramic sales at the fair were steady through the weekend. Lucy Lacoste of Lacoste Gallery (Concord, MA) said, “We are featuring Don Reitz, who is my inspiration for doing this whole show. We have sold a number or major new and historic works [all selling in the $10,000 - $30,000 range]. To be able to present and have viewers see such large-scale works of such intensity at this stage in an artist’s career is a really special experience. It’s really a high for me as a dealer to see the public respond to it so well. We are so very happy with the show this year. The turnout has been really great. This has been our best SOFA so far.” Mindy Solomon Gallery (St. Petersburg, FL) enjoyed numerous sales of ceramics by Gareth Mason and David Hicks. Mindy Solomon said, “Almost without exception the crowd here at SOFA is insightful, informed, and curious. Significant people have come through—museum directors, curators, collectors—major footfall.”

Scott Ashley, Assistant Director of Perimeter Gallery (Chicago) agreed: “We've noticed lots of ceramics collectors in the audience—actually almost all the collectors were here for Opening Night. We have sold some pieces, there is great energy, and we are very happy.” Perimeter sales included works by Richard DeVore, Beverly Mayeri and Patti Warashina. Warashina was one of four artists honored in the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts (Newcastle, ME) with a special exhibit at the fair. Other top ceramic art sales included a Sueharu Fukami sculpture at Floating World (Chicago) for $40,000; two+ Cristina Cordova works at Ann Nathan Gallery (Chicago) for $12,000 – $22,000; and Duane Reed Gallery (St. Louis, MO) sold new works by Michael Lucero in the high five-figures.

Mixed media sales were also noteworthy. ten472 Contemporary Art (Grass Valley, CA) reported, “We have sold all three of the large format bronzes by Gino Miles, 12 metal sculptures by Theodore Gall, and many of our large walls pieces—all to new clients. There is a good energy; everyone is in a good spending mood.  We are shipping a number of pieces out of state as well as in the Chicago area.” Other mixed media selling in the $15,000 – $30,000 range were metal and glass sculptures by Sally Rogers at Thomas R. Riley Galleries (Cleveland, OH), Thomas Scoon at David Richard Contemporary (Santa Fe, NM), Marlene Rose at Adamar Fine Arts (Miami, FL) and Kathleen Muchaly at PISMO Gallery (Denver, CO). Also at PISMO, bronze heads by Scarlett Kanistanaux were going fast, including one on hold for $30,000 at press time. Ann Nathan Gallery (Chicago) sold two salvaged steel works by Gordon Chandler as well as multiple steel cabinets by Jim Rose. Jane Sauer Gallery (Santa Fe, NM) sold wood, cloth, metal and found objects sculptures by Geoffrey Gorman. Two Gugger Petter newspaper wall sculptures in the $15,000 range were snapped up at Jane Sauer Gallery, which also sold fiber art by Cindy Hickok, Carol Shinn, and Carol Eckert.

Riding the wave of the American Association of Wood Turners’ 25th anniversary and special exhibit at the fair by 25 international artists, del Mano Gallery (Los Angeles) reported numerous turned and sculptural wood art sales, including one by Ron Kent for $18,000. Owner Ray Leier said he was happy and had seen “many new faces.”

Intuit Show dealer, Harvey Pranian of Harvey Pranian Art and Antiques (Evanston, IL) said, “The crowd has been mix of a lot of SOFA people, as well as a lot specifically for Intuit. I’ve been very happy. We just sold a quilt to a museum in Peoria. We also sold a Friendship quilt, so our textiles have done well.”

TAI Gallery (Santa Fe,NM) had sold more than ten(!) bamboo basketry and sculpture for over $10,000 each—as of Saturday! David Halpern of TAI said, “We are seeing lots of new faces and Opening Night was very good.” Duane Reed Gallery sold a John McQueen assemblage of willow branches, bark, burrs and other natural materials in the high five-figures.

Other major sales included a Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova cast glass sculpture in the $100,000 range at Habatat Galleries (Royal Oak, MI). Habatat also sold Stephen Clements, Leah Wingfield, Debora Moore, Shelley Muzylowski Allen, Shayna Leib, Michael Taylor, Martin Blank, Davide Salvadore, and Michael Behrens pieces in the $35,000 – $50,000 range. Also selling in this range were David Huchthausen and Richard Jolley sculptures at Scott Jacobson Gallery (New York), Harvey Littleton at Maurine Littleton Gallery (Washington, DC) and Tom Patti at Wexler Gallery (Philadelphia). Sales in the $15,000 – $30,000 range included Toland Sand and Paul Stankard at Jane Sauer Gallery, David Reekie and Brent Koo Lee at Thomas R. Riley Galleries (Cleveland, OH) and April Surgent at Bullseye Gallery (Portland, OR). Ten(!) John Kiley sculptures sold at Traver Gallery (Seattle) in the $10,000+ range, as well as five pieces by Jeannet Iskandar. Sarah Traver was delighted with their return to SOFA CHICAGO after a brief hiatus. Notable Sales in the $5,000+ range included Richard Marquis and Mayme Krantz at Elliott Arts West (Santa Fe, NM). 

View More Selected Sold Artwork online and more about the fairs here. 


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