SOFA Chicago

The 22nd annual SOFA Chicago (Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design) expo has pulled out all stops to make the three-day art fair more accessible and easier to navigate, including a newly designed floorplan and more opportunities to meet artists and designers and learn about the process of curating and art selection. Two-dimensional art — paintings, photography and works on paper — will also be featured for the first time, giving even more options for inspiration.

So whether you're a seasoned collector or a wanna-be art patron, here are some tips on how to navigate the SOFA fair at Navy Pier, November 5-8, and what to check out:

TIP #1 Pace Yourself

This is a large, sprawling show, covering 170,000 square feet and nearly 70 galleries. It's impossible to see everything in one day but you can view the highlights if you organize yourself. Arrive early, close to the 11 am opening on Friday and Saturday and noon on Sunday, to get the best chance to stroll freely with unobstructed sightlines. Grab a program and map out the galleries and art forms that you want to see. Take advantage of the SOFA lounges and cafe to refresh and absorb all of the displays every couple of hours.

TIP #2 Don't Be Intimidated

SOFA attracts some of the most influential galleries, curators and collectors in the world but that doesn't mean that they aren't interested in your questions and observations. The event's organizers have taken great pains to attract younger patrons and emerging collectors. So don't be timid, mingle with the artists and gallery owners, ask questions and dive into the experience.

TIP #3 Glass is The Thing

Last year's fair showcased a range of glass works that attracted lots of eyes and buys. From blown glass pieces and art on shattered glass, to castle-sized chandeliers, the focus was on innovative glass designs. Expect an expanded glass focus this year and look out for the Corning Museum of Glass Hot Glass Roadshow, with live demonstrations of glass blowing.

TIP #4 Seek Out Up and Comers

Although SOFA showcases established galleries and artists, there's also a lot of excitement around new talent. Don't miss the Connect Design Competition representing light and seating installations from students of six different universities. There are also 17 new galleries and artists displaying at SOFA this year, check them out and catch one of the lecture series to really engage with the SOFA experience.

For admission tickets, exhibitor information and full schedules to plan your trip, visit


Photo: CRISTINA CORDOVA, En la Montaña, 2015. Stoneware, metal, resin. 44 x 19 x 6. Represented by Ann Nathan Gallery, Chicago.