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Cassidy's Views

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To the editor:

I wonder--does the Chicago Reader have a clip file? Do your reporters ever consult it before they go out on interviews [The Business, December 30]?

If nothing else, Kimler has made a career out of bamboozling credulous Reader staffers. A few years ago you reported Kimler was leaving for Los Angeles because Chicago was such a horrible place for artists. He denounced everyone in sight, stormed off, and returned 18 months later with his tail between his legs. Now he's attacking Paul Klein and plans to have Important Conversations with Special Friends in the privacy of his studio. He should feel free--as long as he does not share his opinions with us!

Kimler has no business attacking Paul Klein. When Klein had an art gallery he held noncommercial exhibitions during the Christmas season and gave first showings to promising young artists. For years he represented several senior Chicago artists. Recently he gave commissions to Chicago artists for the McCormick Place project. Paul Klein has done more for Chicago's art community than Kimler ever will.

Paul Klein wants to raise money for a Chicago art museum, which is unnecessary and impractical. We already have the Art Institute, which has exhibited numerous Chicago photographers, both contemporary and historic. We have a Museum of Contemporary Photography that shows work by Chicago and midwestern photographers. We have the Cultural Center, which has shown Chicago artists at all levels--long-established ones like Ruth Duckworth and many young on the way up.

Three other museums come to mind with strong curatorial staffs and records of showing Chicago art. The Block Museum in Evanston will have an exhibit of Jeanne Dunning, a Chicago artist, this month. The Smart Museum in Hyde Park has Chicago artists in its permanent collection. The Elmhurst Art Museum has exhibited and acquired work by Chicago artists. The Evanston Arts Center, Riverside Arts Center, and other local institutions regularly show Chicago art. Many Chicago artists are represented by the city's more than 50 serious commercial galleries.

Klein hoped to raise $100 million for a brick-and-mortar museum and has now scaled back to two floors of an existing building. But the money is not forthcoming for two reasons.

First, he is fighting a 900-pound gorilla called the Art Institute of Chicago, which wants $200 million (!!) for its new wing. The Art Institute has every possible advantage--Klein won't win.

Second, Klein has forgotten recent history. In summer 2002 Curt Conklin, another community-minded gent with his heart in the right place, wanted to save the bankrupt New Art Examiner, Chicago's longtime art magazine. He needed $150,000 to pay the Examiner's debts and could probably have relaunched it with another $150,000, but he could not find the money, and the Examiner closed its doors. If Conklin could not raise $300,000, how does Klein expect to raise much larger sums in competition with the Art Institute?

If someone wants to boost the Chicago art community, they should start a local art magazine. If they have any money left after that, they should work through existing institutions to sponsor historic Chicago shows and presentations of contemporary work. This is doable--all that's needed is lots and lots of money.

Victor M. Cassidy

N. Moody

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