Car Gallery Takes Art On the Road

Regena Vanostberg


When Masque Gallery was forced to close its doors in the spring of 2009, owner and curator E. Myrus found himself not only without a gallery, but also without a home. Myrus had maintained a steady schedule of exhibitions out of his Humboldt Park apartment for two years until the simultaneous desertion of his roommates and loss of his job put him and his art out on the street. The deepening recession forced Myrus to rethink his curatorial approach and contend with some major issues in art exhibition – operating on a small budget while still managing to bring art to the masses – and lead to his re-opening as Masque Mobile in June 2009, part of a recent explosion in car galleries throughout the city.

car gallery1

E. Myrus's first reception at Masque Gallery

Car galleries draw their philosophy in part from alternative exhibiting groups like [prak-sis] who stage shows in non-gallery spaces left vacant by the poor economy. This vision of taking art to the streets is combined with the intimacy of exhibiting in the place where one lives, as Myrus – like many car gallery owners – has had to live out of his gallery for the past three months while waiting for his employment situation to improve. Myrus embraces the close-quarters of his car, saying it allows him to connect with visitors and artists on a more visceral level. Mari Ferruso, a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute, wrote in her thesis – “Ultimate Road Trip: The Rise of Automobile Curating” – that “car galleries are some of the most important, growing art spaces in Chicago,” predicting their expansion to other urban environments by the end of the year. Chicago already boasts three other such spaces, and Myrus hopes to bring other car gallery owners together for a collaborative group exhibition staged in any number of empty lots around the city.

car gallery2

E. Myrus and a Masque Gallery patron

It is this extreme mobility and flexibility that makes these galleries so successful. Visitors can track the current location of Masque Mobile via Myrus’s Twitter as it constantly updates with coordinates sent from his GPS phone. Myrus is able to strategically place his gallery wherever the latest hot spot is on any given Friday night, or according to the work he has on display: one weekend he’s parked at the corner of Fulton Market and Morgan, the next, at a metered space outside the Chicago and Franklin Starbucks. So far, artists have been excited about the possibilities of working with both the car’s interior and its exterior form. Masque Mobile’s fall schedule includes a line up of installation, video, and performance, in addition to a steady rotation of painters, printmakers, and graffiti artists.

Learn more about Car Galleries.

[Part of “Best of Chicago Art Magazine”, originally published October, 2009]