What’s in Store for Patron, Chicago’s Newest Gallery

by Robin Dluzen on June 5, 2015 Interview

The dealers at EXPO Chicago in 2013. Photo by Justin Barbin.

The dealers at EXPO Chicago in 2013. Photo by Justin Barbin.

Until two months ago, Emanuel Aguilar and Julia Fischbach were the directors of Kavi Gupta, one of Chicago’s biggest galleries. Shortly after their departure, the pair announced the launch of their new commercial gallery, Patron. Fischbach, who spent 17 years with Kavi Gupta, has established herself as a favorite among collectors and curators. Aguilar started his career as an assistant at both Woman Made Gallery and Jean Albano in Chicago, and founded the publication Jettison Quarterly before his five year stint at Kavi Gupta.

With the gallerists’ previous experience at Kavi Gupta participating at every level of the business, from “unlocking the door” to producing large scale projects by artists like Jessica Stockholder, expectations for Patron are high.

The physical location of the space is still being decided, though Aguilar explains that, “I can definitely tell you that we won’t be in the West Loop. We will be in a neighborhood that people associate with art.” Patron’s inaugural exhibition is planned for EXPO week this September, with a small roster of previously unrepresented artists from Chicago and South America.

Robin Dluzen: What is Patron bringing to the table that’s different than other galleries? What’s your point of view?

Emanuel Aguilar: Chicago doesn’t have as many galleries as New York or L.A. A lot of people in our industry leave Chicago. Even though we contemplated [moving to] New York and L.A, we decided that we both love the city; it’s our home. We were tired of seeing people leave. We didn’t want to be another exit.

Dluzen: The choice to stay in Chicago to launch your new gallery is significant. What is it that you see in the Chicago market?

Aguilar: The art world is more global than ever, and Julia and I work with clients all over the world. There are really loyal people here who like championing local artists. They feel a sense of pride, and this is new—this hasn’t been the case for the last two decades. The last six to seven years, the local collector base has risen to the occasion and provided support for artists who come out of this city. Chicago may not have New York or L.A. markets, but those are accessible through the connections that are here already.

Fischbach: As soon at the Art Institute’s Modern Wing opened, the door flung open to the world. Europeans are coming here on vacation in the summertime. The summer shows have become important. The placement of EXPO Chicago at the beginning of the gallery season—we’re benefitting from that timing.

Dluzen: Chicagoans especially will be eager to know which neighborhood you’ve chosen for the gallery. Where is the space going to be?

Aguilar: We’ve narrowed it down to two to three spots. I can definitely tell you that we won’t be in the West Loop. We will be in a neighborhood that people associate with art. We just haven’t confirmed it yet, so I don’t want to jinx our luck!

Aguilar with Bears at the Met

Aguilar with bears at the Met.

Dluzen: How many artists will be on the roster as you launch? Are they emerging artists or established? Local or international?

Aguilar: Ours will be an entirely new roster of artists that don’t have representation here. We’re visiting with artists all across the country from young, emerging local artists that people will recognize but haven’t really had the reach beyond the city yet.

Fischbach: It’ll be three to four people to start. And we’re in conversation with other people that will be phased in over time. The first show will be a selection of people from that initial group and maybe a few others.

Aguilar: Our program will also look south to Latin America. Being Mexican, I have a lot of connections to artists and collectives in Mexico. There aren’t a lot of galleries looking to young artists in Latin America and giving them a stage up north.

Dluzen: What qualities are you looking for in the artists and art work you will represent?

Aguilar: Artists that we’re searching for are those who are, to some extent, poets, whether that means addressing aesthetics in general, or it’s more social or political of a practice. We’re drawn to artists who work in an archeological or anthropological way.

Fischbach: There’s an architectural bent, too, that makes sense with Chicago. As we keep unveiling different artists that we’re working with, it will be very Chicago and South America. But those two things will not feel disconnected: Chicago and South America.

We’re hoping that the website with our first four artists will be unveiled mid-June.

Dluzen: Do you have a picture of how your gallery will run? How it will keep people in the city?

Aguilar: Julia and I are gallerists who love fostering the relationships we build in the industry. We work intimately and in-depth with our artists, and that goes for the collectors and curators that we work with as well. We want to broaden what it means to be a patron of the arts. Contemporary art is, for the most part, inaccessible for the general public. You have tall counters, frosted windows, small type. Most people don’t know how to engage with contemporary art. We wanted to find ways to engage the larger community, to create patrons out of anyone, whether that’s someone who collects art, or someone who just wants to appreciate it.

Dluzen: Rhona Hoffman recently stated (and then backpedaled from the sentiment) that “there are no really fine galleries in Chicago anymore.” What’s your take?

Aguilar: Rhona Hoffman Gallery is a fine art gallery in Chicago! There is one! [laughs] Rhona comes from a time when there were probably a lot more galleries in the city. Obviously, there are a lot of great spaces that have opened up in the last few years: Regards and The Mission. Though it’s been a good 10 years since anyone launched a full-on commercial space with the intent to become Rhona Hoffman.

But we’re answering that call, to become a fine art gallery in Chicago! [Laughs.]

Fischbach: There’s room for more to happen in Chicago, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Julia Fischbach's dog, Bear.

Julia Fischbach’s dog, Bear.

Dluzen: With your name recognition, why not an eponymous gallery?

Aguliar: We stayed up all night for days thinking about this. When we started, “Patron” was the first thing on the table. Our names resonate with people all over the world. People should know that our names are a part of this. We thought about “Fischbach Aguilar,” but that sounded weird. Someone we knew drew a logo of an eagle with a fish eye, and we were like “that’s not gonna work!” [Laughs.]

Fischbach: The definition of “patron” is so beautiful, and exactly what we are about. We wanted it to feel more inclusive. It will be about us, but we don’t have to say that.

Aguilar: The name opens it up to more than just the two of us. Everyone can be a patron.


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