Navigating Expo Chicago and Beyond

Courtesy of Expo Chicago

Thanks to the art fair and its sister event, Expo Art Week, when it comes to culture this month, the Windy City is the place to be.

“We want Expo Chicago to be a dialogue point between the Midwest and the world,” says Tony Karman, the brusque, arguably brilliant director of the Expo Chicago art fair, which debuted last year and runs September 19–22 at Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. 

The 2012 installment drew a crowd of 27,000 and welcomed galleries like New York’s David Zwirner and Yvon Lambert of Paris. This year, in an effort to expand on Karman’s objective of resurrecting Chicago as one of the international art world’s leading destinations, Expo Chicago ( is offering visitors a bonus of sorts in the form of Expo Art Week (September 16–22)—a citywide celebration of culture.

The idea is to activate new- and old-school institutions alike, expanding the role of the art fair and possibly even the role of art in the distinguished city. The new arrival—which also coincides with the third annual Gallery Weekend Chicago (September 19–22;—invites visitors to tour the studios of local artists, view the private collections of heirs, partake in a variety of events and activities and otherwise explore.

We found ten ways to make the most of it all, from taking in the more than 750 rarely viewed works at the Arts Club of Chicago to seeing a play at the venerated Steppenwolf theater to having a bite at Blackbird restaurant to covering Expo Chicago in full. But the real beauty is how the sibling art affairs go beyond the obvious, showcasing collections and unearthing highlights that quite possibly no one even knew existed in the Windy City.