Contemporary Art Trends Found at Expo Chicago

Insights from EXPO Chicago

This blog post is an adaption of a series of posts shared on WheelHouse Art's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. This is a compilation of trends in contemporary art we picked up on during a trip to Chicago to visit EXPO Chicago.


EXPO Chicago is an "...International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, features leading international galleries alongside the highest quality platform for contemporary art and culture. In 2023, EXPO CHICAGO hosted 170 leading international exhibitors at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall."


There was so much incredible work on display that at times it was overwhelming to take in. Thankfully, we took photos. Lots of photos. And after going through hundreds of photos, we came away with a few trends we noticed. The following is what we came up with, and also how those trends are found within WheelHouse Art's collection of talented artists. Click on the Instagram images to go to the original posts to see more. 

Click on any of the images or headers below to go to the Instagram posts to see the carosel of 10 example images per post.

Contemporary Art Trend 1: PINK!

Bright colors were all over the place, but pink especially seemed to have its place as a favorite palette for artists to work with. We shared ten examples of some great PINKed work, but we could have shared five times as many pieces.

Contemporary Art Trend 2: DO IT FOR THE KIDS!

The second art trend we noticed is a childhood regression for many artists. Or really, what seems to be artists seeking more innocent times of their childhoods, perhaps as a way to work their way through modern day traumas. This juxtaposition of trauma and childhood is particularly highlighted in the portrait of Breonna Taylor created with plastic toy army men.


Between long term effects of the COVID pandemic, civil unrest, and political wars in the United States and abroad, it’s no wonder why so many artists would want to be reminded of simpler times.

Contemporary Art Trend 3: COLLAGE!

There were a number of pieces utilizing collage, or collage elements. From what we traditionally associate with paper cut and paste collages to mixed media collages, digitally designed collage, and paintings that take on a collage-like aesthetic.
Collaging allows artists to pack a lot of information into limited spaces, creates new associations with repurposed materials, and provides viewers with material mindfulness.

Contemporary Art Trend 4: FIBER!

Many pieces on view prominently featured fiber as subject or medium. Artwork fully created with fiber materials, include fiber media collaged into the work, are paintings featuring imagery highlighting fiber, and even wood carved to resemble a piece of fiber complete with grommets and stitches.

Contemporary Art Trend 5: DIGITAL INFLUENCE!

While some of the work here was specifically created and viewed exclusively as digital media, we also found a number of physical works like paintings and prints on canvas influenced by digital culture. Sometimes you could see the imagery was created with the help of computers, while other time paintings simply referenced digital experiences.

It seems like digital art has influenced the art world at large, but at the moment, there’s more of a reactionary response to this digital awareness. NFTs stole headlines in 2021, and artists have responded by creating work referencing our ever-increasing relationships with the digital world, while formatting the art in ways that as of right now, only a human hand could produce.

WheelHouse Art is the first gallery in Louisville to launch a marketplace of our own collection of NFT digital artwork, keeping our art community up to date with the digital revolution happening in the artworld at large.

Contemporary Art Trend 6: MATERIALITY!

There was a lot of work heavy on materials, really featuring the physicality of materials. Thick paint. Lots of texture, dimensionality of surfaces. Here we shared a few detail shots as examples.

It just so happens that this was something we highlighted with our last exhibition, RE: Surface featuring work by Gary Carpenter and Patricia Seggebruch.
Our Part 5 post mentioned artists creating work in ways that only a human hand (or in one case a dog’s mouth) could produce as a sort of reaction to the digital influence on true world. This work clearly demonstrates that obsession with tactile experience.

Contemporary Art Trend 7: FIGURATIVE ART!

There was a lot of figurative work on display. We admit figurative art probably isn’t all that much of a trend necessarily given how artists have been doing it for thousands of years. But it was very well represented at EXPO and we’re here for it. We are loving all of it.

An added point of excitement for us was seeing the portrait of Gregory Gillespie at the Forum Gallery. We have a couple of portraits of Gillespie here at WheelHouse Art painted by his friend and former Forum Gallery artist Stephen Brown.