The Eaten Path

The Accidental Gallerists
Some of our favorite sources for art also do brunch
By Gina Bazer and Jessica Linn

No one doubts the benefits of buying artwork at a traditional gallery—the connoisseurship and professionalism offered by a serious dealer are hard to beat. But if you’re looking for works by under-the-radar artists at an accessible price, take a look  at some alternative venues. We found original artwork by local talents everywhere from restaurants and cafés to a bank and a spa. For the artists, these venues are a good way to get  additional exposure, even if they are represented by a gallery; for the customer, it’s an easy way to shop for art casually—in many cases, while waiting for a meal to arrive.

Chicago Diner
This Lake View veggie standby has been showing local artwork for years. The process is informal: Artists tell manager Del Nakamura that they're interested in displaying their work, and he makes the call. "We generally accept human interest topics, nature, and animal themes—nothing too busy or controversial," he says. Work stays up from one to three months and ranges from $100 to $500. 3411 N. Halsted St., 773-935-6696.

Lula Cafe
It’s fitting that this Logan Square favorite always has interesting art hanging on its walls—from the experimental comfort food served here to the bohemian ambiance, it’s simply an arty sort of place. The exhibits, which rotate every three months or so, are curated by Anders Nilsen and Marianne Fairbanks, a former cook and waitress, respectively, and artists themselves. 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd., 773-489-9554

Jane's Restaurant
This recently expanded Bucktown favorite displays pieces from local artists that range from $50 to $5,000. "We started doing it to change the look for the room from time to time," co-owner Julie Greenwalt says. "It kind of gives us a new atmosphere every three months." 1655 W. Cortland St., 773-862-5263 

This popular local coffeehouse displayed employees' art before deciding to open its doors to other local talent. Until recently, there was no systematic approach to finding the pieces (most of the work was by artists who simply walked in and asked the manager for some exposure). Now Intelligentsia has a Myspace page ( where artists can submit work for consideration. 3123 N. Broadway, 773-348-8058; 53 W. Jackson Blvd., 312-253-0594; 53 E. Randolph St., 312-920-9332

HotChocolate has displayed work from up-and-coming local artists since the restaurant opened in 2005. Owner/pastry chef Mindy Segal prefers to hang interesting and risqué pieces because "the edgy stuff goes along the lines of the food we serve." Segal has put up pieces worth several thousand dollars in the past, but prefers to showcase less spendy work. "I tell artists to price to sell," she says. 1747 N. Damen Ave., 773-489-1747


(above) from the series "Apples (Fish Creek, Wisconsin)," Leslie Schwartz, photographic prints, from $345;

(below) “Two Glazed Donuts,” Byron Gin, oil on canvas, 24 by 20 inches, $1,500;

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