While art fairs are primarily places for dealers and collectors to transact, Expo Chicago has made itself a destination for museum professionals with its curatorial forum, run in partnership with Independent Curators International (ICI). With dozens of curators from institutions big and small signed on to attend this year—including Andria Hickey, the chief curator of The Shed in New York, and Cleveland Museum of Art contemporary art curator Emily Liebert—the convening will open with a keynote address by Victoria Noorthoorn, the director of the Museo Moderno in Buenos Aires, followed by a series of short sessions where groups of eight to ten curators discuss specific issues and, finally, a collective gathering and discussion, all around the subject of care.
“It was present in conversations ten or 15 years ago but it meant something quite different from what it may mean today,” Renaud Proch, the director of ICI, says. “At the forum we will look at care through the work environment of a curator—in issues of accessibility, issues of community engagement. We’ll look at how we care for one another in the field, through issues of labour conditions. And we’ll look at the way that we care for artists—not just artwork—and how we can care for artists with different backgrounds, different practices and different ways of working.”
The curatorial forum has several new features this year, including a $3,000 curatorial travel grant that will be awarded to a woman curator participating in the forum. And a new initiative called the “Chicago Assembly” unfolded in the weeks leading up to and after the fair, with eight local curators—from institutions spanning the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art to Northwestern University and Chicago non-profit ThreeWalls—taking part.
“Chicago curators were often very, very busy during past editions of the fair because they were hosting visiting colleagues, visiting trustees or visiting artists,” Proch says. The assembly will allow them to “revisit some of the conversations that have taken place in the National Convening, learn some lessons and apply them to local contexts”.