Art Expo: Local Dealers Exhibit Their Discontent
Quiet no more, Chicago art dealers are raising their voices in the hope they can keep the prestigious Chicago International Art Exposition from losing its luster. Last week gallery owner Carl Hammer, president of the 40-member Chicago Art Dealers Association, said he had met with Art Expo executives to seek assurance that local dealers will have a significant say in planning future Art Expos. "We are trying to convince management they need gallery input," says Hammer. His comments come in the wake of complaints from out-of-town dealers that fair officials aren't doing enough to promote and upgrade the annual exposition.
If Art Expo executives won't listen, Hammer says, Chicago dealers might consider other options, including participation in David and Lee Ann Lester's competing Art Chicago. "Art Expo is dealing with a disenchanted body of dealers," notes Hammer, "but I'm not sure yet anyone is convinced David Lester should be our new leader."
John Wilson, head of the Lakeside Group, which runs Art Expo, did not spell out how he would respond to the Chicago dealers, except to note, "We have always listened to what they have to say." He pointed out that local dealers are already a part of the selection committee that determines which dealers will participate in Art Expo each year.
But Hammer and a number of other dealers apparently believe they should be included in more than the dealer-selection process if Art Expo is to maintain its elevated position among art fairs. "We cannot see Art Expo continuing to be run in an autocratic manner," says Hammer.
Meanwhile, David and Lee Ann Lester of Art Chicago continue their efforts to take advantage of the dealers' discontent. Last week they faxed local dealers copies of articles about Art Expo and Art Chicago that appeared in this column and in the Sun-Times, with a cover letter touting what they considered to be the fair's strengths, including a festive opening night gala. The Lesters closed the letter with a line no doubt intended to play off of what Hammer and others see as Art Expo's autocratic image: "Call us and tell us exactly what you need and how we can serve you."
Earlier this week Hammer said he was still waiting for a response from Art Expo management about the organization of future fairs. "They haven't said they would listen to us."
More Summertime Blues for Concert Promoters?
The outdoor summer concert season is about to swing into full gear, and the buzz word among promoters this year is "superstar." Promoters are counting on major touring acts such as Genesis, Rush, and Bruce Springsteen to dispel the doldrums of last summer's concert season.
While performers on the road this season are likely to attract large crowds, the number of acts scheduled at some area venues is still low compared to previous seasons. Jam Productions has announced only 11 acts for the World Music Theatre, compared to 31 last summer. "It's going to be a very late season this year," says Jam partner Arny Granat, indicating that many acts may be added in August and September.
Alpine Valley Music Theatre, recently placed under the management of Sony Music/Pace Partnership, has put only four shows on sale, including Rush, Skid Row, and Ozzy Osbourne. "We are kind of feeling our way along in our first season here," says Alpine Valley general manager Fran Macferran. Poplar Creek Music Theatre has lined up more acts than the World and Alpine Valley put together--30 announced so far.
Execs associated with all three venues say they are trying to hold ticket prices down after promoters were criticized last year for price gouging. At the World, pavilion ticket prices range from a low of $15 for the Allman Brothers to a whopping $49.50 for Genesis, with most other tickets falling between $20 and $30. Macferran said tickets for most shows at Alpine Valley would average around $25 for pavilion seats and $17.50 for lawn admission.
Broadcast Museum's Lucrative Move
The five-year-old Museum of Broadcast Communications got more than a prime location in its move to the Cultural Center. The museum, which reopens there this weekend, also enjoys a financially beneficial lease arrangement with the city. Because it agreed to drop its $3 adult admission fee, the museum was given a ten-year lease on 15,350 square feet of space for a mere $1 a year. The museum was paying $252,000 a year in rent for its former 14,000-square-foot digs in River City. Even without the admission fees, which brought in about $78,000 a year, the AMC is still ahead of the game by about $174,000 a year with the new rent agreement. The new museum facility includes fully operational television and radio studios and minitheaters where museumgoers can view classic commercials.
The Man Who Taught Madonna to Jitterbug
Chicago dancer/choreographer Tony Savino calls Madonna "a quick study." Savino should know because Madonna chose him as her partner in a jitterbug scene choreographed by Lou Conte for director Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own, the film about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League of 1943 scheduled to open in the Chicago area on July 1. At an audition call for dancers, Madonna gravitated to Savino, who had won a Dance Fever television contest doing a jitterbug 11 years earlier. "It's my specialty," says Savino. He taught it to Madonna during a three-week rehearsal period for the three-minute movie sequence. "Initially, she was making it a little too Latin," says Savino, "but she liked the danger element," referring to the lifts and throws that are part of the jitterbug idiom. Though Madonna is long gone, Savino's love affair with the jitterbug continues; the River North Dance Company has commissioned him to choreograph a jitterbug anthology to be unveiled this fall.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kathy Richland.