The international art fair Frieze is set to expand its footprint in the U.S. On Thursday, the fair announced that it would acquire the Armory Show in New York and Expo Chicago. According to the press statement, the two fairs will continue operations with their existing names and teams, but further details about the nature of the deals were not disclosed.
It is a brave move for the London-based Frieze, which has already been running Frieze New York and Frieze Los Angeles, to acquire two of the longest-running art fairs in the U.S. The acquisitions raise eyebrows over the future of London in the post-Brexit era, given that some art market players are already shifting their focus away from the U.K. capital.
Frieze said in a statement that it has acquired the Armory Show, which takes place annually in September, and inked a deal to buy Expo Chicago, which usually takes place in mid-April. “These acquisitions mark a transformational moment in Frieze’s growth and allow us to extend the depth and breath of our presence in the U.S.—the world’s leading art market,” Frieze CEO Simon Fox said in a statement.
“New York and Chicago each have their own distinct ecosystem of artists, galleries, museums, and collectors,“ he added. “By expanding our presence in both cities, we will build on the strong track record we have established in the U.S. at Frieze New York and Frieze Los Angeles.” The fair stated that it plans to continue operating Frieze New York.
Following the acquisitions, Nicole Berry, executive director of the Armory Show, which was founded in 1994, and Tony Karman, founder, president and director of Expo Chicago, founded in 2012, will be working alongside the international team of Frieze directors across all existing fairs under the new structure.
Berry said that joining Frieze would allow the nearly three-decade-old Armory Show to grow even further in the long-run. “Joining Frieze enables us to leverage a respected brand, deep industry knowledge, expanded resources, and a larger network, which will further enhance the experience for our exhibitors and visitors alike,” she said in a statement. Karman, on the other hand, said joining Frieze will help to strengthen the fair’s impact.
International art fair operators have been making big moves in recent years in a bid for global domination: Frieze ventured into Asia in 2022 with an inaugural edition of Frieze Seoul, which will be returning for a second edition in September. That same year, Art Basel launched Paris+ last year. Both new initiatives met with positive responses.
Art Basel’s parent company, Swiss fair giant MCH, canceled the long-running Masterpiece London this year, which it had acquired piece-by-piece between 2017 and 2022, citing the lack of European exhibitors returning to the fair due to increased costs and paperwork involved post-Brexit.
The June slot was taken over by a new local fair Treasure House Fair founded by the original founders of Masterpiece, but the show conceived in just four months was operating on a much smaller scale and presence of E.U.-based galleries were scarce.
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