Publisher's Letter, Fall 2019 – Keep it Positive: There's a Lot to Celebrate


To my children it probably seems like I do this job all the time; when I come to my office it means I am not with them. To others I’m never actually at my desk, busy with school pick ups and errands. I admit I don’t get around to as many galleries and museums as often as I would like to. There are also plenty of days where I just want to be with my own kids without one eye on a deadline. Such is life as a working mom with two young children of my own, and a hundred other ‘gallery children,’ as CGN founder Natalie van Straaten used to say.

I couldn’t do the work I do at CGN if not for the help of several key people (Alby, Elvia, Emily) and if it were not to fulfill the positive mission that has always been a part of the magazine and this art community. Work that means something to others is reaffirming and important and it’s worth not giving up on. As artist Phyllis Bramson says in her interview with Alison Reilly for this issue, “I want my work to mean something to myself and those around me.”

I have been thinking of persistence as well as regeneration since I wrote about the 1989 gallery fire this past spring. External forces – not just fires, but recessions, real estate, art fairs, and the internet – have continually forced the art community, as well as most small businesses, to adapt in order to survive. Despite the many challenges there are still those who are committed to making and selling art and working hard. At the time of the fire there were 65 galleries in River North alone, with a few more in other parts of the city. Today, while the concentrations are much less pronounced and the business landscape keeps changing, CGN still lists well over 100 spaces. They each work to support their artists and their own positive missions too. Isn’t that remarkable?

Emilia and Ilya Kabakov pictured with the Miami rendition of the Ship of Tolerance on the Watson Island waterfront in 2012, in conjunction with the Miami Children’s Museum and Art Basel Miami Beach. Photo: Jenia Friedlyand. Copyright © The Ship of Tolerance

So many conversations featured in this issue carry a hopeful message I am pleased to be able to share:

• Artist Richard Hull came to Chicago 40 years ago at the encouragement of his professor. His career has thrived here, and today he enjoys helping and teaching his own students at SAIC.

• Gallerist Mariane Ibrahim, who built an international reputation in Seattle, says she moved here because all roads lead to Chicago; it’s a city whose authenticity is a rarity in the U.S.

• For collector Bob Buford art is a means of having conversations with people of every age and walk of life. He says it’s the most inclusive thing he’s ever been a part of

• Artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s Ship of Tolerance comes to Navy Pier during EXPO. The ships these artists have built over 14 years have united struggling communities and children around the world through messages of hope.

Even when meeting a CGN deadline means last minute surprises and a week of all-nighters, I believe it’s worth it, because the stories of and testaments to resilience I learn from so many in the art world I am able to pass along to my children and those around me. 

I hope you enjoy this fall issue of CGN and all the messages within it.