The Latest Trend in Chicago Real Estate: Apartment Galleries

Contemporary art galleries are often cold, cavernous, and antiseptic. But they don’t have to be!

Many gallery owners frequently paint and repaint the walls of their exhibition spaces, attempting to complement the colors of their paintings and sculptures. Many gallery owners also bring food, drinks, and live music to their openings, hoping to engage and entertain their visitors.

And some gallery owners abandon the idea of a rarefied gallery space altogether, choosing instead to display artwork amidst the chaos and clutter of their own homes. These gallery owners open up apartment galleries, and they revel in the idiosyncrasies and imperfections of the domestic space.

An apartment gallery is just what you might imagine it to be—an exhibition space located in a gallery owner’s apartment. The gallery owner lives, literally lives, with the artwork he or she chooses to display. And visitors who step inside these galleries are not only visiting a commercial exhibition space—they are also visiting someone’s home.

Last week, I spoke with Caroline Picard, the owner of Green Lantern Gallery, a one-time apartment gallery.

Caroline was kind enough to share her experiences as the owner of an apartment gallery with us here:

Why did you choose to open Green Lantern as an apartment gallery, rather than a storefront gallery?

I actually just sort of stumbled into the space. I had been house-sitting for a year and had just decided that I was going to stay in Chicago, so I thought I could look for a more permanent living situation. At first I was looking for studio apartments, but then—as I factored in the cost of that place and a separate studio to work in—I got a little overwhelmed by the cost. I happened to be walking down Milwaukee Avenue and saw a “for rent” sign in what would become the gallery. I decided to go and take a look at it; actually the cost was comparable to what I would have paid for the apartment and the studio. I had always wanted to run an apartment gallery/press and, looking at this empty space, I suddenly felt like I had that chance.

What unique challenges did owning and operating an apartment gallery present?

I realized that my space was ineligible for a business license, so I bumped up against some interesting aspects of civil bureaucracy. On the one hand, people I talked to in the city wanted me to stay open and tried to be really helpful. On the other hand, they couldn’t help and we all agreed, in this case, the rules were stupid. That was pretty interesting.

What did you find most rewarding about owning an apartment gallery?

It was a great way to be part of and learn from the Chicago contemporary art world. I met some really amazing friends and inspiring artists that way.


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