57th Street Art Fair

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The 57th Street Art Fair is Chicago's oldest juried art fair. Founded in 1948, it is held the first weekend in June every year on 57th Street between Kimbark and Kenwood Avenues, in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park, directly north of the University of Chicago campus. It is "the only large, international not-for-profit art fair devoted to exhibiting original art, operated solely for the benefit of the artists, and run by a small group of volunteers without any institutional support." [1]

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States. As of the 2017 census-estimate, it has a population of 2,716,450, which makes it the most populous city in the Midwestern United States. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States, and the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, which is often referred to as "Chicagoland." The Chicago metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, the fourth largest in North America, and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

A juried competition is a competition in which participants' work is judged by a person or panel of persons convened specifically to judge the participants' efforts, either by the competition's stated rubric or by a subjective set of criteria dependent upon the nature of the competition or the judges themselves. For example, in a juried competition where participants compete against each other for a monetary prize, for inclusion in a show or publication, or for representation by a gallery, the work presented is judged by one or more persons, often experts, for such prize, inclusion, or representation.

Hyde Park, Chicago Community area in Illinois, United States

Hyde Park is a neighborhood and community area on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. It is located on the shore of Lake Michigan seven miles (11 km) south of the Chicago Loop.



The 57th Street Art Fair was founded in 1948 by Mary Louise Womer, proprietor of The Little Gallery on 57th Street, which was then a thriving arts colony, "a time of oddballs and crazy people (in later years many of them famous as writers, scientists, and artists) and extraordinary, sometimes nutty, local events." [2] Ms. Womer wished to acquaint the large number of young artists in the neighborhood with each other, and decided to hold an outdoor fair on Saturday and Sunday, October 16th and 17th, 1948. 51 artists paid 50 cents each to exhibit, and by Sunday's end, had sold $500 worth of art. [3] The fair was so popular, it was continued the next year with a committee of organizers. By 1952 there were sales of over $10,000. [4]

The early fairs were not juried, but they contained a number of exceptional artists. Claes Oldenburg's earliest recorded sales of artworks were at the 57th Street Art Fair, sometime before 1957, where he sold 5 items for a total price of $25. [5] The fair became juried in 1963, when it had grown too large for the available space.

Claes Oldenburg American artist

Claes Oldenburg is an American sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring large replicas of everyday objects. Another theme in his work is soft sculpture versions of everyday objects. Many of his works were made in collaboration with his wife, Coosje van Bruggen, who died in 2009; they had been married for 32 years. Oldenburg lives and works in New York.


The 57th Street Art Fair is held on the first full weekend in June. More than 20,000 visitors see the works of some 250 artists on those two days. Continuing the spirit of the first fairs, all of the artworks are real and original, not reproductions, and the fair is free and open to the public. [6]

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  1. Julie Richman and Mary Louise Womer, Chicago's 57th Street Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair Committee Publishers, 1997,Julie Richman, “Art Fairs Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow“ ‘Chicago’s 57th Street Art Fair, The First 50 Years 1948-1997’ pp.16-22
  2. Julie Richman and Mary Louise Womer, Chicago's 57th Street Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair Committee Publishers, 1997, p. 5
  3. Julie Richman and Mary Louise Womer, Chicago's 57th Street Art Fair, The First 50 Years 1948-1997, 57th Street Art Fair Committee Publishers, 1997, pp. 6-8
  4. Julie Richman and Mary Louise Womer, Chicago's 57th Street Art Fair, 57th Street Art Fair Committee Publishers, 1997, p. 12
  5. David McCracken, "The Art Fair That's Been In the Picture the Longest", Chicago Tribune, June 5th, 1987, page 3
  6. Brief history of the 57th Street Art Fair