Mariane Ibrahim

Brian P. Kelly , ARTSY, July 29, 2022


Several cities leap to mind when discussing America’s contemporary art galleries such as Los Angeles, Palm Beach, and the assertive city of New York. Chicago seems perennially overlooked. Yet galleries in the Second City are thriving and distinguishing themselves from their coastal counterparts. 

Mariane Ibrahim moved her gallery from Seattle to a West Town spot in 2019. When considering the relocation, Ibrahim also thought about other cities. “I was like, ‘Maybe I should go to New York,’” she said. She ultimately decided on Chicago because she was stunned by its sense of camaraderie. “I was not used to it. You kind of become aggressive and competitive and it’s, OK, drop that [here],” Ibrahim said. “We’re not New York, we’re not L.A. This is who we are and we work together in this system.” She has helped organize shows for artists she doesn’t represent and hosted parties and events for other galleries.

Chicago “offers a certain type of ease in showing a type of art, in bringing new narratives,” Ibrahim said, which means “that we [are] able to be challenging and bring really high-quality works.” Ibrahim’s program focuses on emerging international and Afro-descendant artists. She has exhibited Amoako Boafo, Ayana V. Jackson and Ian Mwesiga among others.

There are fewer major collectors locally than there were in the past—“in the ’80s we had the Manilows, we had the Dittmars, we had the Bergmans,” Hoffman reminisced—but typical buyers are unique from those on the coasts. “They are not afraid to take any risk,” Ibrahim said.