Importing history


Among the West Loop’s neglected warehouses and sidewalks, crunchy with broken beer bottles, grows a Japanese garden. Standing at 400 N. Morgan, it belongs to the Douglas Dawson Gallery, relocated last November from the more gentrified River North neighborhood, which was “losing its edge,” according to Wally Bowling, the gallery’s architect.

Inside, amidst a lacquered Burmese Buddha, a Peruvian urn from the Chancay tribe, and a Japanese armoire dating to 1875, the Smart Museum hosted its final event for this year’s Smart Set, a membership program intended to bring together gallery owners and Chicago alumni “who don’t know much about art but are curious and interested in collecting it,” said Katie Malmquist, manager of membership and annual giving at the Smart.

Owner Douglas Dawson put his audience at ease, explaining that he got into the business largely because he was “very uninterested in Western civilization and trying to avoid a real job.” Dawson encouraged the 45 alumni to ask him “anything you’ve always wanted to ask but have been too embarrassed to.” In response to one woman’s query about whether a slender statue was once part of a fertility ritual, Dawson replied, “The two main concerns of ancient art are fertility and ancestor worship. These cover 90 percent of the pieces.” But “this piece,” Dawson assured, “is not a vagina.”

Meredith Meyer, ’06

July 18, 2005