Frieze Acquires EXPO CHICAGO and the Armory Show

Both the Armory Show and EXPO CHICAGO say the deals will bolster resources and networks for the U.S. art fairs.

Frieze, already an art world behemoth with annual fairs in London, New York, Los Angeles and Seoul, is about to become even bigger with its acquisition of two of the largest art fairs in the U.S. It purchased New York’s Armory Show and is set to close a deal on EXPO CHICAGO later this year, as announced today (June 13).

People walk past green sign reading 'Frieze London'
Frieze London will celebrate its 20th anniversary later this year. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

“These acquisitions mark a transformational moment in Frieze’s growth and allow us to extend the depth and breadth in the U.S.—the world’s leading art system,” said Simon Fox, CEO of Frieze, in a statement. “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.” No notable changes will be made to the operations of the Armory Show or EXPO CHICAGO, according to Frieze, which did not disclose the financial terms of either deal.

The Armory Show, first founded in 1994 as the as the Gramercy International Art Fair, hosts its annual fair in New York City every fall. It also hosts talks year round, an annual Curatorial Leadership Summit and Armory Off-Site, which consists of large-scale artwork placed in public spaces in the city like the U.S. Open.

“As New York’s largest art fair, this acquisition marks an important milestone for the storied Armory Show as it approaches its third decade in the world’s largest art market,” said Nicole Berry, the fair’s executive director, in a statement. “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.”

The next edition of the Armory Show will take place at the Javits Center in September. More than 225 galleries, including Victoria Miro, Kasmin and Lehmann Maupin, are set to take part.

The deals will offer bolstered resources for the U.S. fairs

While Frieze has already finalized its deal with the Armory Show, its acquisition of EXPO CHICAGO is expected to close sometime in 2022 “subject to customary closing conditions,” according to the fair. EXPO CHICAGO has for a decade held annual exhibitions of contemporary and modern artwork, building on “Chicago’s legacy as the site of the first international art fair in the Americas.” The city held the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, an international fair which drew in 12 million visitors to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America.

More than 170 galleries from 36 countries are expected to participate in the next edition of the Chicago art fair, scheduled for April of 2024, which will be accompanied by city-wide arts programming. “We are incredibly grateful for this monumental partnership with Frieze, which will strengthen the fair’s impact and reach in service of our exhibitors and provide us and our patrons with new invaluable resources,” said Tony Karman, director, founder and president of EXPO CHICAGO, in a statement. Both Karman and Berry will work alongside Frieze’s international team of art fair directors.

While it has since turned into one of the most powerful art world initiatives with five annual fairs and three publications, Frieze was born out of the 1991 launch of frieze magazine, founded by Amanda Sharp, Matthew Slotover and Tom Gidley.

The news of its acquisitions coincides with the 20th anniversary of Frieze London, its first art fair, which takes place each October. The milestone will be celebrated with solo presentations selected by acclaimed artists like Tracey Emin, Wolfgang Tillmans and Olafur Eliasson.

“It worked… but I had no idea it would capture the cultural zeitgeist to the degree it did in London,” said Sharp in 2021. “It surprises me that so many people helped us and that there is still so much goodwill towards the event.”

Frieze Acquires EXPO CHICAGO and the Armory Show