How I Collect

Collector Jack Guthman on the Chicago Art Scene and Its Premier Fair

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Collector Jack Guthman on the Chicago Art Scene and Its Premier Fair
Sandra and Jack Guthman

After more than 40 years of collecting art, the Chicago attorney Jack Guthman and his wife, Sandra, have firmly entrenched themselves in the city's art scene. Most recently, Jack, who also serves on the board of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, signed on last year to chair the civic committee for the inaugural edition of the fair EXPO CHICAGO. Now promoting the fair for its second year, Guthman spoke to Artspace about the evolving Chicago collecting scene and which artists have his attention now.

What goals did you set out to accomplish with the EXPO CHICAGO civic committee?

It was important last year to involve the broader Chicago community, to have city-wide support for EXPO CHICAGO, the rebirth of the fair at Navy Pier. We approached people involved in the arts community, as well Chicago civic leaders who we thought would be interested in the fair and what it would do to enhance culture and specifically visual arts in our city. We wanted the people on the committee to be ambassadors for both the fair and for Chicago. 

How has the reception to the fair changed since its inaugural edition last year?

Additional civic leaders have come on board. There has been an increased awareness of and enthusiasm for the fair both here and elsewhere. As we visit with gallery owners and people who collect art in different parts of the country, a very positive anticipation of EXPO abounds.

How did you begin collecting art?

My wife and I started visiting galleries many years ago and the disease, as I describe collecting, has not abated! We have always collected art together, so there are no such things as her pieces or my pieces. We have to agree on any piece we buy—that is a cardinal rule for us. Our first purchase was a Picasso print. That was over 40 years ago and it has not been on our walls for many years. 

What kind of work do you focus on collecting these days?

We continuously look at the work of younger artists. In recent years, we have increasingly found ourselves drawn to conceptual photography. The focus there is not only on the image, but also on the story behind the image. The artists who create this type of work often are speaking to political and social issues. That type of commentary appeals to us, so work of that nature finds it way onto our walls.

Who are a few artists you've been particularly interested in lately?

Photographers Xaviera Simmons, Michelle Abeles, and Matt Keegan. Others working in other media include Angel OteroMolly Zuckerman-Hartung, Paul Cowan, Matt Connors, and Camille Henrot. Also Theaster Gates, whose work has both a societal and political bent, so it fits very well into our interests

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