Primary Projects Covers a Chicago Shopping Center in Public Art

Jen Stark's escalator installation.
Jen Stark's escalator installation.
Clayton Hauck

When Books IIII Bischof and company launched Primary Flight back in 2007, and invited 35 artists to paint street murals across a blighted Wynwood, he had no idea his plan would become a cultural phenomenon and turn the run-down district into an open air museum.

Back then Bischof's vision not only provided an alternative space for artistic experimentation, but also brought the artists and the community closer together in a way that captured the ever-changing urbanity and dynamism of the Magic City. As the years passed, and Wynwood's street mural scene exploded on the international stage due to the presence of Art Basel, Bischof and the hundreds of artists that signed on to his project exuded an abundance of energy and enthusiasm for unique public art ventures that would spawn Primary Projects, a full time exhibition space in 2010.

Now, the homegrown gallery Bischof founded together with Typoe and Cristina Gonzalez has joined The Arts Initiative to curate 11 site-specific installations at the new Fashion Outlets of Chicago, expanding Primary's brand beyond the tropics.

Primary Projects Covers a Chicago Shopping Center in Public Art
Austyn Weiner

Bischof and his Primary colleagues recently returned from the Windy City, where they presented a lineup of nationally and internationally recognized contemporary artists, most of them originally from Miami or with strong ties to our city. Together, they transformed the $250 million dollar Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall into a sprawling romper room for creativity.

During the mall's inaugural, which drew upwards of 200,000 visitors, artists including Bert Rodriguez, Jim Drain, Kenton Parker, Jen Stark, Andrew Nigon, Friends With You, Daniel Arsham, and Alvaro Ilizarbe wowed the crowds with an eye-popping collection of sweeping installations and sculptures suspended from atriums, situated behind escalators, and tucked in between name brand stores.

"It was the most amazing experience I've ever had during all these years of presenting work on the streets or public projects," Bischof says, adding that the concept was a year in the making.


Primary Projects Covers a Chicago Shopping Center in Public Art
Kenton Parker

"It was like working between two worlds. In Miami, if you needed a wall painted or a scaffold, all we had to do was call a homie. Here, we were working with a budget and had the support of Arthur Weiner, a developer and founder of The Arts Initiative, who sees this type of project as a way to redefine public spaces and deliver art to the community in an enriching fashion," Bischof explains. "We had to deal with construction crews and the unions, and that was a bit of a mission, but it all worked out beyond our expectations," he adds.

"The idea is that all public spaces, whether it's a mall, a stadium or whatever, can be seen as a vessel for this type of project or a blank canvas for artist to create works on," says Bischof.

Weiner has plans to expand this concept to projects in New York and Los Angeles, Bischof says, noting that he plans to continue working with Weiner in the future since they share the same vision.

Alvaro Ilizarbe's Chicago installation.
Alvaro Ilizarbe's Chicago installation.
Clayton Hauck

"It gives us the opportunity for branding and commissions and to raise the public consciousness that art can be experienced outside a museum or gallery, [places] that come with a specific stigma in terms of their environments," Bischof says.

At the first fully enclosed multi-level fashion outlet center to appear in Chicago in more than two decades, crowds were captivated by Arsham's Clock, Stark's Wormhole and Friends With You's rainbow-hued mobile dangling under a skylight says Bischof.

"During the opening weekend, hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom might never have visited a museum, came to the mall and had all of these wonderful conceptual artworks impact their psyche. Now even the little kids who experienced it will understand public art better growing up and be open to these experiences. Our idea is to reconsider how to use raw public spaces in a new and amazing visual way to change how people experience public art," Bischof says.

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Primary Projects

151 NE 7th St.
Miami, FL 33132

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