Frieze buys The Armory Show and Expo Chicago fairs

Frieze buys The Armory Show and Expo Chicago fairs

By: Melanie Gerlis

The ambitious art fair franchise Frieze will add two big-brand US events to its portfolio — New York’s The Armory Show, which it has already acquired, and Expo Chicago, whose sale is due to close next month.

The deals mark a major consolidation move in the industry as it adjusts after the pandemic, and they take Frieze’s tally of fairs to seven worldwide. These include four in the US, underlining the continued clout of the continent in the global art market. “We had felt we could make a bigger impact in the US and were delighted to take these opportunities,” says chief executive Simon Fox. Frieze launched its existing New York edition in 2012 and in Los Angeles in 2019.

Fox says the two New York fairs should “complement each other rather than compete”. The larger-scale Armory Show caters to a more US-focused crowd and runs during New York’s busy art season in September, while the higher-wattage Frieze New York coincides with the major auction weeks in May.

Financial terms of the acquisitions have not been disclosed, but Frieze, majority owned by the entertainment conglomerate Endeavor since 2016, confirms that the additional fairs have been bought outright and will keep their existing brands, venues and teams. “We’re not coming in to change things, but to strengthen them,” Fox says, though he admits that putting “a little distance” between Frieze’s currently clashing Seoul edition and The Armory Show could be “logistically useful down the line.”

The Armory Show, founded by gallerists in 1994, has been bought from the real estate giant Vornado, and has been directed by Nicole Berry since 2017. Expo Chicago, whose roots are in the first stateside international fair founded in 1980, has been revitalised since owner-director Tony Karman took over in 2012. Its acquisition would mark something of a homecoming for Endeavor’s Chicago-raised chief executive, Ari Emanuel.

via Financial Times.