The return of EXPO Chicago to Navy Pier for its sixth annual edition from September 13-17 signals a high-water mark for Chicago’s imprint on the global art scene: with more than 3,000 artists on display—represented by 58 cities and 25 countries—the week pushes the Windy City to the most esteemed echelons of the art community.
But outside the myriad art to admire at the festival proper—135-plus international galleries present—can’t-miss programming abounds beyond the Pier. To wit: through October 9, The Peninsula Chicago hosts “What it is to be Human,” an exhibition featuring works by renowned architect and designer Gaetano Pesce—extending the brand's history of public commitment to the arts, which ranges from activations at Art Basel in Hong Kong to artist-in-resident programs at Peninsula Beijing.
Curated by Salon 94 and taking place on the hotel’s ground-level and fifth-floor main lobby, the survey displays 20 pieces from Pesce’s oeuvre reflecting the genre-spanning artist’s creative reach. Here’s a few reasons the show is a must-see (beyond, of course, finding another excuse to enjoy a burger at The Lobby restaurant).
Lake Table (2012) by Gaetano Pesce.
With an illustrious, decades-spanning career, Pesce's legendary output ranges from the forward-thinking Organic Building in Osaka, Japan, to his seminal interior staple, the Serie Up 2000 armchair—and that’s just a (very) elementary skim. And with his CV scattered across permanent collections in 30-plus museums—including the MoMa, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, and other storied institutions—chances are you’ve seen a Pesce, even if you don’t realize it (pro tip: for a thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into the mind of the highly decorated designer—the Chrysler Award for Innovation and Design (1993) being among his many accolades—check out his recent Q&A with designboom).
Rug Wall Lamp (2017) by Gaetano Pesce.
“Multi-disciplinarian” can get tossed around pretty broadly; Pesce is summative of the term in the truest sense, and “What it is to be Human” showcases that fluidity. Both his functional and ornamental bents are display, with chandeliers, tables, resin pieces, and more category-crossing works making up the 20-piece exhibition.
Tree Vase (2015) by Gaetano Pesce.
2017 has been nothing short of buzzy on the museum circuit: from the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Gauguin: Artist as Alchemist” to the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg” and other all-star exhibitions in between—including, most recently, “Hebru Brantley: Forced Field” at the Elmhurst Art Museum—the Windy City’s highlighted some of the most important names in art in just the past few months alone. In conjunction with these, plus EXPO—and the concurrent Chicago Architecture Biennial, to boot—consider “What it is it be Human” a way to round out what’s been a banner campaign for art in Chicago.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN ROHRER