Consolidation in the art fair market continues as Frieze recently announced it has acquired The Armory Show and Expo Chicago. This adds to their existing portfolio of Frieze London and Frieze Masters (which run concurrently), Frieze LA, Frieze New York, and Frieze Seoul. The goal, it seems, is to go head to head with Art Basel, which in addition to the original fair in Switzerland, runs similar events in Miami, Hong Kong and Paris.
As these two square off, deep questions are forming as to whether the ecosystem that supports the fairs can keep pace. One colleague recently told me that her gallery participates in fourteen art fairs a year, more than one a month. For each, their costs include a rental fee for the booth, shipping and installation of the artwork, transportation and accommodation for staff as well as entertaining clients. Similar pressure is applied to their stable of artists, who are continually asked to pump out work to fill the booths. Collectors eventually bear the brunt of the expenses with their purchases, but as people return to pre-Covid spending and activities, the number of regulars on the circuit is thinning.
Only time will tell whether the galleries, artists and collectors can keep pace with the international calendar of events set by these two giants, not to mention the proliferation of regional fairs that also exist, or whether art fair fatigue will set in.