Rising Talent Stephanie Cristello is Making Waves in the Chicago Art World

By Kelsey Ogletree, photography by Colleen Durkin | September 19, 2018 | Culture

Behind the scenes of Expo Chicago, director of programming Stephanie Cristello is proving herself as an emerging force in the city’s cultural scene.

EXPO Chicago Director of Programming Stephanie Cristello surrounds herself with art from the recent exhibition Note G at west Town studio space Chicago Manual Style, which she curates.

Stephanie Cristello’s résumé reads like a consummate art world professional’s: She’s director of programming for EXPO Chicago, the annual fair launched in 2012 that this year will feature an unprecedented 135 galleries from 27 countries; founding editor-in-chief of The Seen: Chicago’s International Journal of Contemporary & Modern Art; co-founder of a local dual-format project space, Chicago Manual Style; and a frequent contributor to prestigious art publications such as ArtReview and Elephant magazine.

To say she’s a go-getter is a serious understatement. “I’ve had that described of me, yes,” says Cristello, a resident of Ukrainian Village. She moved from Toronto at 17 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she completed a five-year, dual-degree program in four years, landing a position as a graduate curatorial assistant at Sullivan Galleries (SAIC’s museum)—as an undergrad.


It was her work there, plus experience running student galleries at SAIC and a passion for art that began in her formative years at a French primary school, that eventually led to her first role with EXPO in 2013. Fast-forward five years, and the fair has grown from a single stage to 13 core programs, over which Cristello has been largely influential. She travels the world from October through June, seeking out new artists at fairs like Hong Kong’s Art Basel.

If it seems that her schedule leaves no room for downtime, you’d be right—but that doesn’t bother Cristello, who lives and breathes the art world. “Most of my friends are artists,” she says, “and life and work blend seamlessly in this field.” EXPO Chicago, Sept. 27-30, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., 312.867.9220

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