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Chicago Dealerships Look Abroad to Expand Reach

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As Chicago’s gallery scene grows, a growing number of dealers in the city are looking to expand. But rather than opening outposts in the US coastal art capitals of the world, New York and Los Angeles, these dealers are looking further afield.

Topping the list is Mariane Ibrahim, who moved her eponymous gallery from Seattle to Chicago in 2019. She has since opened two international outposts: the first in Paris in 2021 and the second in Mexico City in February. The French capital’s art scene has benefited greatly from Brexit: while the UK’s share of the global art market has shrunk by 3% between 2020 and 2021, art scales in France have increased by 50% year-on-year, depending on The Art Market 2022, published by Art Basel and UBS. Several top-notch galleries have opened spaces in Paris in recent years, and Art Basel launched a new fair there last fall. For Ibrahim, the attractiveness of the city predates the current market trend: “As a French citizen, it was only a matter of time before I opened a space in my country.

A booming scene south of the border

Meanwhile, Mexico City’s art world profile has risen in large part due to the growing popularity of its flagship art fair, Maco areaand a global tourism boom in recent years, marked in particular by a influx of other North Americans. Although the Mexican art market remains dominated by a few major collectors, dealers in Latin America saw a 29% increase in sales last year, particularly in Brazil and Mexico, according to The Art Market 2022.

Emanuel Aguilar, who co-founded Chicago’s Patron Gallery with Julia Fischbach, says they are also looking for spaces in Mexico outside the capital that can be used as both exhibition and residency space for artists and artists. conservatives. “We want to find a way to collaborate and support artisans and producers [in Mexico] as well as our own,” says Aguilar, who is Mexican American, while developing lasting and “mindful” relationships with the place and its people in a way that simply attending fairs cannot offer.

Ibrahim agrees, noting that Chicago and Mexico City, while very different, share a common sense of pride and investment in their artist communities. She found Mexico City a perfect fit for her program, which showcases artists from the African diaspora across the Americas and Europe. “Opening a space here will allow us to better connect with the Hispanic and Afro-Latino community,” she says.

Inside Mariane Ibrahimi’s Espace Mexico Courtesy of Mariane Ibrahim

Chicago’s art market remained stable albeit regional for half a century, thanks in large part to loyal dealers like Rhona Hoffman, Kavi Gupta, and Richard Gray. Gray was the first to launch a second space outside of Chicago – the gallery has maintained a location in New York since 1997. Gupta also opened an additional space three years ago in New Buffalo, Michigan – a Midwestern version of the New York Hamptons.

Over the past five years, however, the Chicago gallery scene has seen an infusion of old and new galleries with rigorous and ambitious exhibition programs merged between Wicker Park and West Loop. This pocket of growth has attracted international curators, collectors and artists “who pay close attention to what is happening here”, according to Aron Gent and Sibylle Friche of the Document gallery, which opened as a small space showroom and print shop in 2012. In January, they launched a new location in Lisbon, Portugal.

Documentary space in Lisbon courtesy document

Like Mexico, Portugal’s international appeal – and domestic revenue – has recently been boosted by tax incentives for foreigners, including the offer of temporary resident or “digital nomad” visas that allow income-generating visitors high to work remotely at a reduced price. tax rate. In both countries, this influx of foreign money proved a double edged swordfueling a cost of living crisis for residents on the one hand while breathing new life into the creative economy.

“It wasn’t our priority to open a second location, but I visited Lisbon during the Arco art fair and noticed that the gallery community there had a similar feeling to Chicago; people seem to have a collegial relationship and strong networks of local artists,” says Gent, adding that many galleries and artists there were excited about the Chicago art scene and the opportunities for collaboration.

With much of the rest of the art world coming to Chicago each year for Expo Chicago, the city’s dealers don’t feel pressured to expand to traditional art hubs like New York or London in order to achieve global reach. “A lot of other cities are disrupting the monopolistic concept of a ‘world art center,'” Ibrahim says, and Chicago could increasingly be one of them.

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