Art World Worries
A bad case of the jitters is running through the art market here as dealers prepare for the first round of fall openings. With the Middle East crisis far from settled and the economy a big question mark as well, no one knows whether Chicago's art aficionados will be in a buying frame of mind when the gallery doors all over River North and beyond open next Friday. "Eight months ago, prices for art were soaring, and everyone was doing quite well," notes dealer Alan Kass. "Now everything has changed." Typically one of the more aggressive art purveyors on the local scene, Kass is changing his strategy this fall to match the new mood. For his opening show of works by Joseph Stabilito and Charles Arnoldi, Kass says he is pricing the pieces slightly lower than he might have in less uncertain times. Kass is also planning to hold an art auction and dinner on the opening weekend of the season to pull in even more traffic. For the moment, however, other dealers aren't responding competitively the way Kass is: "We're taking the high road," says dealer Roberta Lieberman of the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, whose show of works by sculptor and painter John Buck will open the fall season at 230 W. Huron. But Lieberman admits to some concerns about the lack of customer traffic passing through the gallery district in recent months. "We have heard some complaints," she concedes, "but we'll know better what it's going to be like a few weeks into the season." Dealer Paul Gray isn't ready to concede that the troubled state of the world will radically affect the sale of art. "When the stock market plunged in 1987," he says, "many people expected a long-term decline in the sale of art. The opposite was true. The art market did not decline." Furthermore, Gray contends that many of the big players in the art market are not immediately affected by a troubled economy or the threat of war. Gray, as well as other dealers, believes emerging artists and the most famous will continue to sell well, while artists on the middle rungs of the popularity ladder will be hurt by a cautious market. Paul Klein is another dealer who suspects the unsettled world picture is bound to affect the art market. "All this talk of recession does have an impact," notes Mein. "The purchase of a piece of art always has been a luxury, and it is something people think they can put off." Klein also wonders whether this will be the season that forces some local art dealers to shut their doors forever, saying, "It may be more difficult than ever to make ends meet this year."
Blues Bash Canceled; Blues Fest to Be Announced
It took only a few minutes for the top executives of the New York-based Philip Morris Company to cancel a lavish press bash scheduled for Monday, August 27, at Buddy Guy's Legends, only hours before the party was to have begun. The decision to cancel came in the wake of the sudden death of Stevie Ray Vaughan, killed Sunday night in a helicopter crash en route from Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin. Vaughan was scheduled to appear at Monday's bash, which was set to announce Benson & Hedges Blues, a seven-day blues series kicking off October 7. When the party was canceled, the club was in the throes of a complete makeover engineered by Philip Morris and Margie Korshak, Chicago's high priestess of parties. Korshak executives were planning to spruce up the lavatories at Legends with colorful hand towels and potpourri, and fresh flower arrangements from tony florist Mark Fronczak were being carted in for the occasion. Korshak and Philip Morris executives had spent hours sampling fare from some of the city's leading caterers in an effort to select an appropriately bluesy menu. Caterer Colin Reeves was among the losers in the food competition: though the tasters deemed Reeves's food delicious, items such as smoked chicken curry in phyllo baskets with dried wild cherries seemed a bit precious for the soiree being planned. Ferree Florsheim, the winning caterer, wound up serving its slightly more down-home package of chicken fingers, potato pancakes, and mushroom ravioli to those who showed up at Legends to pay their respects to Vaughan. The blues festival itself will go on with a lineup that includes a "Boogie 'Til the Break of Day" concert on October 12 with John Lee Hooker, Dr. John, Willie Dixon, Elvin Bishop, and the Kinsey Report. On October 13 comes "A Salute to the Dynamic Divas of Rhythm and Blues" with Nell Carter, Koko Taylor, Ruth Brown, and Irma Thomas. Both concerts will take place at the Arie Crown Theatre, but there will be numerous other events and performances at various locations--all to be announced.
World's Greatest Not Good Enough
The new issue of Town & Country magazine isnt going over so well in the offices of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is preparing to launch its 100th anniversary season next month. T&C's September issue is devoted in its entirety to what the magazine's editors call "worldly, wonderful" Chicago. But while entire features are devoted to cultural bastions such as Second City and the Field Museum, there's a noticeable deficit in attention to what most music critics consider one of the world's great orchestras. A two-page color photograph of the city's movers and shakers features a beaming Ardis Krainik, general director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza, but the CSO's executive director Henry Fogel is nowhere to be found. The omission is understandable when you know that the issue was to have included an entire article on the 100-year-old CSO penned by Sun-Times music critic Robert Marsh; the story was killed before press time. The reason? T&C told the CSO they ran out of space.
Sahlins Going to Court?
Court Theatre, the University of Chicago-based theater company that specializes in the classics, is nearing the end of its search for a new managing director to replace Mark Tiarks. Sources say one applicant for the post was none other than Bernard Sahlins, the Second City founder who went on last year to launch the Willow Street Carnival, a short-lived hybrid theatrical disaster that folded with thousands of dollars' worth of unpaid bills. Sahlins, who also had a hand in founding Chicago's International Theatre Festival, has never hidden his interest in classical theater, though his taste seems to veer toward the more offbeat. Meanwhile, Northlight Theatre is bringing on board Jeffrey Woodward as its new managing director, effective on or around October 1. Woodward comes to Northlight from the well regarded Hartford Stage Company, in Hartford, Connecticut, where he was general manager and marketing director.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.