SOFA, the Sculptural Objects and Functional Art and Design Expo took place this year from November 1st-4th at Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier. Celebrating its 25th year, the Expo featured over 70 galleries that set up their finest works of art, craft, furniture and jewelry for over 25,000 art-loving attendees. Many exhibitors were delighted by the changed layout this year, which created better exposure for all participants and improved traffic flow in the expo hall. On the outskirts were six installations by CONNECT participating schools, where visitors could sit, relax and connect with one another in cleverly designed spaces that encourage relaxation and conversation. The students really outdid themselves this year! and the Illinois Institute of Technology took home the prize for most innovative design.
Upon entering the expo hall, attendees were immediately greeted by the Corning Museum of Glass’ new mobile hot shop. The massive, expandable trailer was used for reportedly the fourth time ever and dazzled visitors with demonstrations all weekend, by the top glass artists represented at SOFA.
Corning Museum of Glass’ Mobile Hot Shop
CONNECT Space designed by the University of California-Davis students
CONNECT Space designed by Columbus College of Art & Design students
Another highlight was brought to us by John Miller, representing HIVE Contemporary. Known for his miniature and oversized pop-art food and giant goblet collaborations, Miller brought a fully decked out (nonfunctional) food truck to the SOFA party. Complete with neon lettering, boxes of blown glass fries, onion rings, and doughnuts, visitors got to walk through the truck and experience a taste of his refined silliness.
Habatat Galleries of Royal Oak, Michigan took center stage again with its sprawling multi-booth space showcasing over 50 artists from its well-rounded assemblage of international and U.S. based sculptors working primarily in glass. Habatat hosted its own programming where visitors heard from artist panels and got books signed by some of the best in the biz.
Perhaps my favorite exhibition was that of the Chicago Mosaic School, unassuming and tucked in the back corner with the other nonprofits organizations. The School founded by Karen Ami displayed about a dozen sample mosaics of various skill levels that bent my understanding of what mosaic was, and could do. These students have some serious talent!
Other faves included Bender Gallery from Asheville, NC, particularly coldwork guru Karsten Oaks’ newest body of work, Melissa Morgan Gallery’s installation featuring Anthony James’ trippy Icosahedron (a crowd favorite), and the stunning jewelry of Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h from Montreal, among many impressive jewelry vendors.
On the whole, SOFA 2018 was replete with exquisite fine art and furnishings by some of the top artists working around the world, as well as some emerging artists and newer galleries looking to make names for themselves. The emphasis remained on sculpture, particularly glass and metal, though an increasing number of 2D works graced the walls as collectors’ decreasing amount of floor space has necessitated this trend.
Though I didn’t see anything earth shattering, I left SOFA feeling inspired, excited, and even a little overwhelmed! Surrounding events like Ignite Hot Glass’ Friday night after party made for a funky, well-rounded experience that enticed me to put SOFA on my calendar again next year. Hope to see you in Chicago October 31st-November 3rd, 2019!