The Art Miami Group Has Been Sold to a UK Events Producer in Yet Another Shift to the Art-Fair Landscape

The Art Miami fair group, which includes Art New York, CONTEXT, Aqua Art Miami, Art Wynwood, and others, has been sold to Informa Markets.

A view of Art Miami, overlooking Biscayne Bay in Florida. Courtesy of Art Miami.

The Art Miami fair group, which operates five fairs across the United States, has a new owner. The London-based exhibition, events, and publishing enterprise Informa Markets has purchased the venerable art-fair business for an undisclosed sum, artnet News has learned.

Listed on the London stock exchange, Informa operates some 500 events and exhibitions around the world, with a particular focus on yacht and design trade shows. Last year, the firm generated a hefty £2.4 billion (about $3 billion) in revenue, according to its annual report.

“It’s a bold and very positive step for us,” Nick Korniloff, Art Miami’s director, who owns the company with two partners, tells artnet News of the sale. During his years with the business, he has grown the fair empire to include CONTEXT, Aqua Art Miami, Art Wynwood, Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary, and Art New York. Over the past year, those fairs have drawn in some 400 dealers and overall attendance of more than 300,000 people. (Art Miami has also shuttered its share of fairs over the years, including Art Southampton and Art Silicon Valley.)

Image courtesy of Nick Korniloff.

Korniloff reports that the entire existing Art Miami family of fairs, as well as the staff, will be maintained under the new ownership. (Sources say Art New York may be a casualty of the deal as the rental fee for its space on Pier 94 is staggeringly high, however Korniloff insists the venture will never shut down.)

Under the new owners, “every feature of the Art Miami fairs, from the ambiance to the dealers and the audience, will be enhanced,” adds Korniloff, who began his art-fair career under Florida-based entrepreneur David Lester, who established Art Miami and founded International Fine Art Expositions, later sold to the Daily Mail Group for $18 million.

What Informa brings to the table is considerable international reach. The company has 56 offices throughout the US, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. While the firm owns Art Toronto, the overwhelming majority of exhibitions it produces in 30 countries fall more into the category of the traditional trade show, such as the Monaco Yacht Show. Informa also has an entire design division, operating shows as far afield as Shanghai and São Paulo.

This is not the deep-pocketed London firm’s only recent acquisition. Informa’s Global Exhibition Division acquired Yachting Promotions Inc., which operates the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Yachts Miami Beach, and the Palm Beach International Boat Show, for $133 million two years ago.

Image courtesy of Informa Markets.

Infomart, which declined to provide details on the deal, is poised to ratchet up the visibility of Art Miami further. Two years ago, Korniloff expanded Art Miami and CONTEXT, its sister fair focused on emerging art, when he relocated them to downtown Miami. Last December, those two fairs roped in 84,000 visitors, according to the organizers. Art Miami also saw high-profile sales: the Munich-based Galerie Terminus sold a 2007 Sigmar Polke oil painting for $3.8 million and London’s Osborne Samuel Gallery placed a 1946 Henry Moore bronze for $1 million, among others.

Nevertheless, overall turbulence has marked the heavily saturated art-fair industry for years now. Multiple fairs declined to return during New York’s Armory Week this year, including the Collective Design fair, Moving Image, and NADA. The most recent editions of Art Stage Singapore and Art Stage Jakarta were also canceled abruptly, while the Outsider Art Fair called off plans to expand to Basel last year. MCH Group, the parent company of Art Basel, announced last fall that it would divest from most of the regional art fairs it had invested in just a few years earlier, including the India Art Fair, Art Dusseldorf, and Art SG.

A bird's eye view of Art Miami and CONTEXT. Courtesy of Art Miami.

A bird’s eye view of Art Miami and CONTEXT. Courtesy of Art Miami.

Will Informa’s latest acquisition promise smooth sailing for Art Miami? Can a company that has cornered the market on yacht shows convince its boating enthusiasts to cross over into art collecting?

Art economist Clare McAndrew suggests the fair group’s new owner might lure additional exhibitors into the fold. “A company like this with broad interests could be quite a good prospect for new or different exhibitors if it can show it has global outreach into new markets and new pools of buyers,” she tells artnet News.

For London dealer Michael Goedhuis, who has taken part in Art Miami for more than two decades, the change in ownership is a win-win—and presents an opportunity for the group to expand beyond the US. “With Informa sinking capital in Nick’s fairs will mean that he will have the financial substance and international network to explore China and further afield,” Goedhuis says.

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