A Tribute to Michael Weinstein
BY THOMAS MASTERS
In September 2015 Chicago lost one its great "Aristo-Democrats," Michael Weinstein.
There are a few blowhards and bullies in this town who claim to be the champions of the "underdog artist." They criticize galleries and institutions for insensitivity and abuses to those artists and they seem to be forever sought out by the press for their well worn opinions. They believe this somehow advances an artist's struggles, that tired rhetoric somehow makes them heroic. For the most part it is self serving and provincial.
Michael Weinstein simply described them as "the bitter ones..."
His approach? He helped artists to understand their work in ways that they themselves did not consider or comprehend, and he did this over lengthy conversations in galleries, while standing in front of the works, going piece by piece with the the artist or gallerist. He wrote reviews, catalog essays and critiques that were insightful and generous in spirit. He attended hundreds of exhibitions around the city, praising both galleries and artists, and encouraging and inspiring those who engaged him in conversation. He may have been the most intelligent writer about art in this city, and yet, except for his photo reviews in New City, his contributions were somewhat overlooked and he was seldom asked by the media in Chicago to comment on major art events. Often the media selected the same, tired voices. In this regard, Michael's enormous intelligence and advanced intellect in all aspects of art and life were overlooked.
I have talked to numerous people who claim to be his best friend and confidant. He had a special gift for making one feel like his relationship with you entitled you to believe it to be so.
Michael could talk to anybody. He could convey the most complex ideas about art, life and philosophy, and he would make the listener understand it all in a simple and profound way.
He could make you feel less alone in the world.
Some afternoons he would visit my gallery, and we would talk for hours over beer and french fries and walk through the exhibitions and discuss the work on display.
I will miss those times with him.
Top image: One of many great moments with Michael and his wife Deena.