Barely Fair: Chicago’s New Mini Art Fair | WBEZ
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2 Rooms, 24 Tiny Galleries: Chicago’s New Mini Art Fair

Microwave-sized booths are lined up throughout an East Garfield Park art gallery. In one, a tiny guitar rests next to a tiny mic. In another, a rat trap contains a minuscule painting of a cat and mouse.

These are just two of the 24 works at the “Barely Fair,” a new contemporary art fair built at a 1:12 scale.

Kate Sierzputowski, one of the fair’s directors, said a lot of miniature art finds an audience online. But she wanted to bring those small displays together so people can get a better appreciation of the scale.

“When you’re seeing it in person, you’re actually getting that perspective to see how tiny it really is,” Sierzputowski said.

However, just because the booths are small doesn’t mean all the art is tiny.

One display features a real electric razor on a red shag carpet. (Sierzputowski said several visitors reached out and shaved the carpet.)

Lauren Frost/WBEZ
"Everyone who comes in just seems to walk around with a big smile on their face," said fair co-director Roland Miller. Above: Art Fur (2019) by Pierre Portelli

“People will have to get close to it”

Fair organizers invited galleries from around the world to curate these miniature booths.

Artist Lindsay Mican Morgan, who works as the keeper of the Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, made a little scale that would fit in with the Art Institute’s famous collection.

But Mindy Rose Schwartz, another artist displaying work, said she usually works on a much larger scale.

“In some ways, it’s just as much work to make something small as it is to make something large,” Schwartz said. “Especially because you get the feeling that in order to even see the work, people will have to get close to it, so it will be much more closely scrutinized.”

drawing easels
Lauren Frost/WBEZ
Fastnet is a shipping container that hosts plein air drawing workshops. This booth at "Barely Fair" contains a miniature version of the container and tiny easels. Above: Plein-Air Drawing Classroom at NYC Freshkills Park, Staten Island (2019) by James Powers

“Actually engender meaning”

“Barely Fair” opened in September in the middle of a major modern art festival known as EXPO CHICAGO.

Roland Miller, another director of “Barely Fair,” said the fair is also conceptual art.

“It’s a model art fair that is supposed to actually engender meaning when compared to real art fairs,” Miller said.

One point of contrast is the price. A booth at “Barely Fair” cost $25, while galleries had to pay thousands of dollars to rent booths at EXPO CHICAGO. Sierzputowski added that “Barely Fair” is more accessible than other fairs because all 24 tiny booths fit in two small rooms.

“Barely Fair” is running at the artist-run project space Julius Caesar at 3311 W. Carroll Avenue in Chicago. It’s open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for the next three Sundays, or by appointment.

Lauren Frost covers news for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @frostlaur.

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