With 2012 nearing its conclusion, HuffPost Chicago reached out to some of city's most prolific trendsetters and thought leaders in style, music and culture and asked them to share some of their favorite local places and things from the year. We'll be rolling them out on the daily through New Year's Day.
2012 was a big year for the art scene in Chicago, so big, in fact, that ArtSlant said the city "came out in full force onto the national and international stage" and "won big" this year.
But what was the best of the best? We reached out to Newcity's Pedro Vélez, who shared several of his top Chicago art picks from the year.
Below are some of Vélez's favorites from the year in Chicago art. All below text is Vélez's. For a full list of Vélez's Chicago and Midwest 2012 favorites, visit Newcity.
4. “Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art,” at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago
Thanks to relational aesthetics, sharing food and drinks is an integral part of the art experience today. But as an artistic medium, sharing food has been a thing since the 1930s, from the Italian Futurists to Alison Knowles’ “Identical Lunch” in 1971. Not being a fan of food art, I was a bit apprehensive coming into this show, but the encyclopedic nature of it and the inclusion of important artists like Mary Ellen Carroll, Theaster Gates, Tom Marioni, Michael Rakowitz, Ayman Ramadan, David Robbins and many more, made me a believer.
3. Elijah Burgher at Western Exhibitions
With titles like “Ghost Vomit” and “Scatology,” how can anyone go wrong? Elijah Burgher makes intricate colored-pencil drawings of sigils, emblems, the occult and plain-looking naked men conducting strange rituals in cheap motel rooms. I’m under the impression that Elijah’s amateur magicians always fail to establish a spiritual conductor to the other side, but at least they get a sexual high out of trying.
2. Dave Hickey’s “BIGart” at Navy Pier, co-curated by Joe Tabet
If this was meant to be Hickey’s last hurrah, then we can say he went out with a bang. When I met the man he talked about retirement, the vicissitudes of writing his new book “Pagan America,” and the fact that, according to him, Chicago is the best city in America to display public art. Needless to say I’m still star struck. The show is always open to the general public and you can visit at any time of the day or night. It has an all-star lineup including sculptors Almond Zigmund, Nancy Rubins, graffiti artist Gajin Fujita, and a thirty-foot-tall Roy Lichtenstein sculpture.
1. The Museum of Contemporary Art
From Heidi Norton’s impressive glass herbariums of common houseplants buried in layers of colored wax to an accessible yet highly competent, and somewhat melancholic, revisionist survey of art made during the culture-wars era in “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s,” the MCA has placed itself right at the center of the national conversation. And they have done it by transforming what used to be a forgotten elitist institution into an exemplary multicultural operation. It seems the MCA can turn anything it touches into gold these days. Think of satirist Jayson Musson and his first-ever museum performance or the urban excitement produced by Martin Creed’s public kinetic sculpture “MOTHERS,” which has become the most talked-about piece of public art in this city since the dreadful Marilyn—in a good way, of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years from now the MCA is leading the pack. Follow their addictive Twitter handle @mcachicago, which is one of the coolest among all the other museums in the nation. <em><a href="http://art.newcity.com/2012/12/18/eye-exam-my-top-art-picks-for-2012-in-chicago-and-the-midwest/">Check out more of Pedro Vélez's top Chicago and Midwest art picks from the year at Newcity</a>.</em>