Art Is Busting Out All Over + Christopher Wool in Chicago + A Cautionary Tale

Art fairs are everywhere these days, have you noticed? Enough to prompt The Wall Street Journal to do An Art-Fair Survival Guide on March 7, by Kelly Crow. Not saying it is all my scene, but it’s fun to be in on what so many people are talking about. And it’s exciting that more and more people seem to be interested in art. It must be contagious. That week, writes Kelly Crow, began in New York “a citywide swarm of art fairs” attracting collectors from all over and kicking off the spring art season. 

You don’t even have to go to a museum. You can just walk down the street and it’s there. See Olaf Breuning‘s Clouds in Central Park, this photo from my Instagram. Don’t you love it?

Am loving Olaf Breuning’s ”Clouds” installation in Central Park. With their childlike quality so playful and fun, the school bus seemed a nice addition, though it was just a coincidence!

And here is one of Alice Aycock’s whirling sculptures in Park Avenue Paper Chase:

Alice Aycock, ”Park Avenue Paper Chase,”  to July 20, 2014,
Park Avenue Malls, Manhattan

The “art season” for me, however, started a bit earlier, with an unplanned visit last month to the Art Institute of Chicago, for a reception following the memorial service for a family member and beloved friend. That she, Frances Dittmer, bequeathed to the AIC the Christopher Wool painting that is the promotion piece for the entire exhibit is an irony and rather sweet satisfaction lost on none of us. Read the AIC write-up on the exhibit here.

Art Institute of Chicago Visitor Guide, featuring the current Christopher Wool exhibit

I missed the Christopher Wool show when it opened to acclaim in late October at the Guggenheim in New York. I am crazy about the Guggenheim and am a member, but I missed it. (The Wool show closed in January) Why do I bring this up, you ask?

Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

Well because many people were talking about did you see it at the Guggenheim and I think it is better here than at the Guggenheim and along those lines. And then whoever said that would look around sheepishly and say he’d better be careful where he says that. And you’d think a person (namely, me) with even a modicum of a cerebellum would pick up on that kind of caution. Slightly catty though it was.

And yet.

Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

I could see their point what with the Guggenheim’s spiraling walls affording close proximity to works that to my entirely unsophisticated eye seem to cry out for elbow room. But what do I know. Nothing, is what.

Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

But that didn’t keep me from proffering the regurgitated remarks of others in attempts to make small talk with people I did not know on a subject I did not know.  So I wandered into a lovely group of ladies, among whom I knew one. How do you like the show, etc., they asked. “Well I think it is wonderful,” I said, sorry as I was for the circumstances that brought us there. “I missed it at the Guggenheim so am doubly glad to see it here.” 

Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

Nods and smiles of approval. “Everyone seems to be saying,” I carried on, “how they prefer this one to the Guggenheim, which I can sort of see…” You know where this is heading, yes? Straight to disaster. But I kept talking, at which point you see one or two in the group get a look like, to paraphrase TR Pearson, I was standing there talking to the Governor and my skirt blew up over my head. 

Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

TRBL indeed. “Frances,” says one of the perfectly dressed, coifed, and bejeweled ladies indicating one of her companions. “Have you met Jennifer Stockman, president of the Guggenheim’s board of trustees?”


Christopher Wool at the Art Institute of Chicago

I mean, what do you say? When the earth does not open up and swallow you whole right then, as you so fervently wish it would, then you are compelled either to fake a seizure or to respond. Eliminating the former as bad form (even for me),  I said, “Well you aren’t president of the Guggenheim because you’re a sissy.”

Or because she is not gracious and poised. Jennifer Stockman could not have been more gracious and poised, saying something about how she likes to hear what people are saying etc. etc. Nonetheless I would have given anything at that moment to have turned into a large potted palm and remained one for the rest of my natural life.

Read this to your children. Discuss it at dinner. Don’t be like me.

Do be like Jennifer Stockman.

And do read up on Christopher Wool. Robert Smith’s piece on Wool and the Guggenheim show here.

His Grace (my husband for new readers) and I were lucky to have loaned to us for a while this striking Christopher Wool piece, photographed here hovering above the Christmas mantle.

Christopher Wool at Rancho La Zaca, a few Christmases ago

I was going to regale you with more art adventures but am too traumatized at the moment to continue. Stay tuned for the Getty Museum and Jackson Pollock’s Mural, Paul Gaugin, Mira Schendel and Sara Genn… 

Until then I need water and a lot of light.



    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, beautiful, wonderful Stacey. Have been loving your posts lately – but then always do. xFrances

  1. Great Post Loved it yet I need tissue and visine. Well it is Trouble not True Blue and it really feels so at home at the AIC. I find this so moving that Trouble is on a new adventure and has been welcomed embraced and hangs all over the city of Chicago. Moving on buses, bus stops, held in many hands and banners!!! Thank you JuneBug

  2. Oh Frances !!!! We have ALL been there ( to some degree or another ) I have felt that pain, and it happened when trying to fill a conversational lull….. It comes from having your heart in the right place 🙂 if we know Anything about you XOXO

  3. This is has GOT to be the original situation for which the following comment was first used: “Bless your heart!”

  4. SRSLY that story could have come from my playbook. Ms. Stockman sounds like quite a lady, and I am so glad to learn about Mr. Wool and his work. TRBL indeed.

  5. Self-deprecation is always welcome, in good times and bad. Thanks for sharing your story~~it made me giggle….and something tells me that Ms. Stockman was impressed by you and your recovery~no need for a potted palm…

    Will await more art adventures~xoxo

  6. Thank you, Frances, for brightening our day and providing a good chuckle. We look forward to hearing from you about the Getty – soon, please.

  7. Hi Frances, I saw the exhibit in New York and loved being able to get close as I tried to figure out the trickery but I’m sure it was great in Chicago as well. Plus anyone involved in any faction of the art world knows the truth is “to each his own”.
    T. Floten
    P. S. Don’t repeat that.

  8. So glad to see the Art Institute exhibit and Frannie and Tom’s donation. It was deja vuefor so many of us with your conversation with Ms. Stockman. You handled it with your usual good humor and spirit.

  9. Francis
    I am usually the one who puts my foot in my mouth, so I was quietly giggling as you were talking about how the Wool show looked so much better at the Institute than the Guggenheim. I even used our situation in my remarks at a Wool dinner later that evening (no names of course). I adore people with passion and opinions, especially by those smart enough to redeem themselves as you so deftly did.

    1. Dear Jennifer,
      I thought you were cool when I met you, but you have now surpassed even that. Brava, and thank you. So much more I could say, but as memory serves, I should quit while I’m ahead. Hope our paths cross again.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.