Increasing its share of the art-fair market, the London-based Frieze on Thursday announced its acquisition of the Armory Show in New York, as well a signed agreement to acquire EXPO CHICAGO, two of the longest-running art fairs in the United States.
“We feel we’re only scratching the surface of the opportunity to play a bigger part in the ecosystem,” Simon Fox, the chief executive of Frieze, said in a telephone interview. “These are both iconic, historic fairs with deep roots into their communities. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to invest further in the U.S. art scene and play a bigger role in that.”
Both fairs will continue to operate under their existing brands with their current teams. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“It affords us in the future opportunity to collaborate, innovate and grow in ways we haven’t been able to in the past,” said Nicole Berry, the Armory Show’s executive director. “We are an established brand with deep roots in New York City and there is a solid U.S. art market, so I understand why they’re looking to increase their footprint here.”
Tony Karman, the president and director of Expo Chicago, called Frieze’s involvement “a significant boost.
“It increases our ability to be more impactful and successful on behalf of our visitors,” he added.
The art world has often bemoaned the proliferation of art fairs all over the world, which have threatened to dilute their impact and importance, not to mention overwhelm collectors’ schedules. But Fox made the point that this acquisition does not add or eliminate any art fairs, but rather enhances those that already exist.
“Through this deal we’re respecting the existing art fair calendar,” he said, “and hopefully giving even more compelling reasons for people to visit Chicago in April and New York in September.
“We have a large and professional team that will support both fairs,” he added. “Whether digital support, VIP relations, sponsorship or gallery relations, we’ve got great professional teams to help them be even better than they already are.”
Founded as a magazine in 1991, Frieze had its first fair in London in 2003 and then expanded to New York in 2012, where the fair currently takes place at the Shed, and to Los Angeles in 2019, where this year it was held at the Santa Monica airport.
Frieze is part of IMG, a sports, fashion, events and media network that is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global sport and entertainment company.