Will Hollywood Investment in Frieze Prompt a New West Coast Fair?

The founders drop hints in a recent interview.

Frieze New York. Courtesy Frieze New York.
Frieze New York. Courtesy Frieze New York.
Frieze co-founders (L) Amanda Sharp and (C) Matthew Slotover, with Amanda Massenet. ©Patrick McMullan. Photo - CLINT SPAULDING/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Frieze co-founders (L) Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover, with Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-A-Porter. Courtesy of Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com.

With just days to go before the opening of New York’s annual Frieze Art Fair and the related frenzy of week-long events, the Financial Times attempts—with limited success—to address the questions about how a new, presumably major investment in Frieze from Hollywood talent agency William Morris Entertainment (WME-IMG) will impact the fair.

WME-IMG, represented by “Hollywood super-agents” Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel, spans a broad number of categories including sports, entertainment, fashion, and talent management, but until now, “they didn’t have a presence in art,” as Frieze co-founder Matthew Slotover points out to the Financial Times.

The million-dollar question on everyone’s minds, as Marion Maneker points to at the Art Market Monitor: Is a West Coast edition of Frieze Art Fair in the works?

At a recent Frieze press breakfast in downtown Manhattan—ahead of this year’s New York edition—there were no answers to this pressing question, perhaps because the investment, announced just two weeks ago, is so new, and the team is treading carefully.

The WME-IMG investment marks the first time that the company, founded by Slotover and Amanda Sharp, have accepted an outside investor. Sharp and Slotover both emphasized to the Financial Times that they retain full control of Frieze, which runs three international fairs and four publications.

However, Sharp does reveal that WME-IMG has big plans for the fair; stating, “They’re a company who value talent and they value content creation, and they feel that much of our content—and there’s such a lot of it—is rather underexploited.”

Frieze New York. Courtesy Frieze New York.

Frieze New York. Courtesy of Frieze New York.

The FT deftly handles the major expected points of discussion: including the extent of a “digital” angle on the art world but more likely, the opportunity to capitalize on California’s exploding art scene—most notably in Los Angeles with the opening of the Broad Museum and gallery expansions from Europe and the East Coast alike—as well as the recent re-opening of SFMOMA and expectations of growth for the gallery scene there.

In the end, Slotover and Sharp only drop hints about a possible expansion: “If the galleries and collectors we’ve worked with over the years tell us they want another fair, we’d certainly think about it,” Slotover states, while Sharp says, “Never say never…”


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