10 Standout Artworks Discovered at Expo Chicago 2023

Paul Laster, Galerie Magazine

10 Standout Artworks Discovered at Expo Chicago 2023

The tenth edition of the Midwest fair returned to the city’s famed Navy Pier with 170 galleries representing 36 countries and 90 cities around the world


An international art fair serving America’s Midwest, the tenth edition of Expo Chicago, which opened to the public on Thursday, April 13, and ran through April 16, returned to the city’s famed Navy Pier with 170 galleries representing 36 countries and 90 cities around the world.


“We are thrilled to mark Expo Chicago’s tenth anniversary with such a successful fair week, distinguished by top quality presentations, strong sales, a robust slate of programs onsite and throughout the city, and engagement with a growing network of local, national, and international art dealers, curators, museum directors, collectors and artists,” Tony Karman, Expo Chicago’s President and director, told Galerie. “Each year, we are proud to welcome arts enthusiasts from around the globe, as well as our local Chicago community, to enjoy a vibrant, dynamic week of activities. I am deeply proud of Expo Chicago’s place as an essential part of the art fair calendar and how the fair has expanded Chicago’s reputation as a global arts hub.”


While some of the big-name international galleries that have done previous editions of the fair in the past sat this one out, younger galleries with emerging artists mining issues of identity from various corners of the world flocked to the fair with the hope of finding new collectors for their art, and—from all reports—they did. The number of galleries exhibiting African, Asian and Latin American art was especially noticeable but not surprising in the Windy City, which boasts a broad cultural community. To celebrate 10 years, we’ve included 10 outstanding artworks from these galleries in our curated selection of favorite paintings and sculptures.


3. Wole Lagunju at Montague Contemporary

Born in Nigeria and now based in North Carolina, Wole Lagunju mixes figures from fashion and art with Nigerian cultural motifs in his stylish paintings and works on paper.  Employing Yoruba design patterns and cultural references, the insightful artist creates Afrofuturist art by mining the past for what still has resonance in the present. The six new canvases exhibited in his solo show at Montague Contemporary’s booth presented dynamic black male models wearing Gelede headdresses used by male dancers to play female parts in masquerade and other striking figures in patterned outfits, which seem to merge with their backgrounds. In his multi-layered painting Ma Fo (Don’t Be Intimidated), the bird and plant motifs on a sharply dressed black man’s shirt reflects the flora and fauna on the wallpaper behind him, as if to express that the symbols of the past continue to shape the identity of African men today.  The artist was awarded the Northern Trust Purchase Prize at this year’s fair—leading to the acquisition of one of his paintings by the St. Louis Art Museum.