The annual design show inspires many unofficial events.
“NeoCon’s the one time of the year when the design world pays attention to Chicago,” Michael W. Dreeben says. As architects, designers, manufacturers and potential clients descend on the Merchandise Mart this week for the unfortunately named annual trade show, Dreeben and other local creatives gear up for several unaffiliated free exhibitions to be held Tuesday 15 in the West Loop.
The evening’s anchor is the Guerrilla Truck Show outside Morlen Sinoway Atelier (1052 W Fulton Market, 5:30–9pm). The event, which Sinoway started in 2005, has no official connection to NeoCon, but “They’re aware of us,” says the designer and furniture dealer. Sinoway started the show “to give the Chicago design community a venue to display their talent,” having realized that emerging designers couldn’t afford trade-show booths. “We don’t charge,” he explains. “We don’t edit. I said, ‘We’ll get the space; we’ll get some beer. I’ll throw out the electrical lines. The rest is up to you.’”
Participating designers just have to “rent a truck from U-Haul, create a little vignette within the truck, throw the door open for one gig and drive off into the night,” according to Sinoway. Designers seem to appreciate the arrangement’s simplicity: The Guerrilla Truck Show has grown from six to more than 30 trucks. This year’s event includes work by Craighton Berman; Danielle Klinenberg; and students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UIC and Harrington College of Design.
The Chicago-based Object Society, which Dreeben cofounded with fellow designer Michael Koehler, capitalizes on the Guerrilla Truck Show’s success by setting up shop nearby at 217 North Carpenter Street (6–10pm). As a dozen of the group’s young furniture and product designers show new work upstairs, local band Two Aglets Jazzing will perform and the Publican and Avec provide refreshments. Downstairs, another local design organization, the Object Design League, exhibits projects inspired by cornhole.
Strand Design (1008 W Randolph St) and Studio Murmur (1044 W Fulton Market) also host open houses from 6–9pm, and many local businesses will stay open late, including Linda Warren Gallery (1052 W Fulton Market) and EC Gallery (215 N Aberdeen St).
Given that NeoCon ensures they get “international attendance,” Sinoway considers the off-site shows important opportunities “to let the people of other cities know that Chicago has a lot to offer.” So, Tuesday 15 should be pretty exciting for design addicts—especially because, Sinoway admits, “Everyone can go forward in a truck, but they can’t back them up.”