An Interview with Art Dealer Ann Nathan
BY MARY DEYOE
When you walk into Ann Nathan’s gallery you feel like you’re floating. The gallery sits about a half story above street level, and when you stand at one of the enormous picture windows looking out at those passing by, you are in another world. I imagine that is just as Nathan intended it.
For more than 30 years in Chicago, Ann Nathan has run a gallery. She began in 1980 in a 200-square foot space she rented from the ceramicist Ruth Duckworth. “The space was tiny. We showed jewelry and ceramics, and we used every inch of space. The pedestals opened up and doubled as storage space,” Nathan recalls. For several years the gallery existed there before a couple of moves, then survived a fire and relocated and rebuilt in her current space on Superior Street. “Although many galleries have since opened further south and west, I think this area will always survive because of its location.” The galleries are close to the L and blocks from Michigan Avenue.”
When talking about how she has thrived for so many years, Nathan admits she has always had a simple approach. “I am open to showing what works.” This is, though, limited to figurative art and realism. “When we started everyone was showing abstract work, but I was never interested in doing what everyone was doing.” This perspective has freed Nathan to show a diverse range of artists and styles. The work, by artists from around the world, ranges from the dreamy paintings by Christina Haglid to the bold and dynamic sculptures by the long-time Chicago artist Michael Gross. “Michael’s work is unique and strange,” Nathan said. “It’s sculptural, functional furniture.” This is another trend you’ll find at Nathan’s gallery. The furniture pieces are always functional. In fact, when we met, Nathan and I sat and talked on two beautifully carved wooden stools.
In regards to how the gallery and art landscape has changed in Chicago, Nathan seems unfazed. “Chicago is a welcoming place, but every space is different.” Nathan believes you have to pick work you like and show what you like to show.
Nathan and her gallery staff are certainly welcoming to visitors, a trait that has undoubtedly helped in the gallery’s success throughout the decades. While you explore the work in the gallery and move from a gigantic charcoal portrait by Mary Borgman to playful, smiling nude sculptures by Esther Shimazu, you feel transported, at least for a little while, to a place far away from Superior Street.