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Gallery Spotlight: Alan Koppel Gallery

Gallery Spotlights are posts about randomly selected* art venues in Chicago

Lynda Wellhausen

At the Alan Koppel gallery the main commitment is to dealing secondary works by major artists of the twentieth century. Rather than introducing artists, the gallery shows work that has stood the test of time and fits into the framework of art history. “I would much rather show work by an artist who has already been in the cannon, and I’m looking at a specific work by that artist and at how that fits into their whole body of work,” said Koppel.

From Dada objects to Surrealist art to the occasional contemporary works, the directors maintain an interest in work that not only seduces the eye, but that has substance and real ideas. Koppel feels particularly drawn to surrealism because of the way it deals with the unconscious and other concepts that have moved the 20th and 21st centuries forward. “It has this really interesting intellectual component, but it also has an interesting sexual component. I think that it’s the most human of artistic movements,” he said.

Koppel collected work on his own and worked in finance for 20 years before he opened a gallery. He had many connections with artists and dealers, but felt ready for the step into the gallery world especially because of his educational background in art history. His collection started with Chicago Imagists, and expanded from there. Since 2001, the gallery has maintained a presence in the River North district with a 4,000 square foot space.

Artists shown at the gallery include the mid- career artists: Robert Moskowitz, Bruce Conner and Jacques Villegle. A collection of Villegle’s torn posters, with their abstracted shapes, distressed edges and representational imagery urgently layered together are well represented. The gallery also maintains a selection of works by artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Louis Bourgeois. Recent exhibits include work by Ed Paschke and Exquisite Corpse Drawings from 1925 through 1935.

To Koppel, the role of the dealer is to objectify the art they’re showing and create a transfer of energy from the object to the viewer. He finds it problematic in the art world when people’s collections are similar and the artist of the moment is like a type of uniform. The work at the Alan Koppel gallery is differentiated because it’s by artists who have a strong conceptual basis rather than those who conform to the latest trends. “We’ve always shown master artists we love, the artists have changed over time, but that we love them has not,” said Laura Ellsworth, one of the directors.

Alan Koppel Gallery is located at 210 West Chicago Ave, Chicago. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10am to 5:30pm, and Saturday 10:30am to 5:30pm.

*Gallery spotlights are chosen based on a lottery, which we document by videotape, in order to be transparent and truly random. 10 were chosen out of a pool of 350.