If the “buy local” consumer ethos has improved the environment and kickstarted local economies, Chicago’s art collectors would do better to build their collections the same way they fill their fridges. For aspiring and seasoned connoisseurs alike, Chicago is rife with opportunities to purchase affordable, beautiful work by emerging and established local artists. This holiday season, give the gift of art while giving back to the artists and arts organizations who make Chicago a lively, beautiful and eminently exciting place to call home.
This mainstay gallery of Chicago’s alternative art scene has been collaborating with local artists on limited editions of artworks for several years under its Community Supported Art Chicago program, a subscription-based service modeled after community-supported agriculture. This season, Threewalls expanded its affordable art offerings with the Seasonal Shop Showcase, a series of small exhibitions of unique works by Chicago artists. Online and in-person, holiday shoppers will find the Shop at Threewalls stocked with prints, posters, sculptures, ceramics, zines and many other rare and beautifully made things by artists like Claire Pentecost, Edra Soto, Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, Faith Wilding, Alberto Aguilar, David Hartt and many, many more.
DEVENING PROJECTS + EDITIONS
Whether you are a hardcore collector or an enthusiastic art dabbler, Dan Devening’s West Side gallery is a surefire space to see incredible, under-exhibited work by local and international artists curated with thoughtful attention to the interplay of form and meaning. An accomplished painter, Devening has an eye for the unexpected beauty of unusual formal encounters. On the editions side of his outfit, Devening publishes affordable editioned works by notable Chicago favorites like Tony Tasset, Laura Letinsky and Joseph Grigely, as well as international luminaries such as Candida Höfer, Chris Wool and Sigmar Polke, among others. Given the high-profile reputations of many of Devening’s artist collaborators, these works tend to go fast.
SPUDNIK PRESS COOPERATIVE
Founded with the idea that printmaking is a truly democratic medium of art, Spudnik Press Cooperative provides affordable access to professional equipment, materials, instruction and exhibition opportunities to expert and amateur Chicago printmakers. Spudnik’s online shop is full of works by talented teaching artists and former residents, as well as artist books and posters. For aspiring printmakers and curious citizens, Spudnik offers private lessons and studio time in convenient-to-gift packages. With their annual Ten X Ten series, Spudnik partners with Homeroom Chicago to pair ten visual artists with ten musicians to produce a limited-edition LP record and print portfolio of co-inspired tracks and prints, a perfect way to support local art and music in one savvy gift.
With a focus on posters and street art, Galerie F blurs the line between fine art and dorm decor, offering something for everyone in their cozy gallery and exhibition space in Logan Square. More welcoming than your typical alternative gallery, Galerie F nonetheless sells high-quality, handmade prints by more than a hundred artists from Chicago and elsewhere. If you or your gift-target tend toward pop, cartoon or street-art aesthetics, Galerie F will surely not disappoint.
For those who prefer the art of fashion or simply do not have enough wall space to hang a painting, Imperfect Articles is the perfect answer to the wardrobe-as-gallery. Chicago-based artists Mike Andrews and Noah Singer team up with artists from around the country to produce limited edition tee-shirts featuring artwork and original designs. If the concept sounds strange, consider that Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí and even Piet Mondrian designed clothing based on their signature painting styles. In the twenty-first century of art fashion, Imperfect Articles pioneers the new wave with shirts by Chicago artists like Deb Sokolow, William J. O’Brien, Elijah Burgher and Alice Tippit.
For those who plan their gift shopping in advance, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Holiday Art Sale of student work kicks off the art-buying season in late November with a bevy of tomorrow’s art stars selling their wares. Of course, supporting Chicago arts is an every-season affair, with fundraiser auctions for ACRE, Roots and Culture, Chicago Artists Coalition and many others dispersed throughout the year, often with online access through Paddle 8. For maximum impact and total ease, direct your Amazon Smile account to give one percent of your total purchases to the Chicago arts organization of your choice. It’s better to give than to receive, but why not do both? (Elliot J. Reichert)
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.