CHICAGO—Having completed its first successful year as the new owner of Art Chicago, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. (MMPI) has acquired two other art fairs, including a leading competitor, New York’s Armory Show.
Speaking to Art Chicago gallerists on April 28, Mart president Chris Kennedy announced the deal, which also includes buying the Voltashow, a young fair of emerging galleries in Basel, Switzerland, that runs concurrently with Art Basel in mid-June.
Both the Armory Show and Voltashow expect to maintain their current artistic management teams, Kennedy said, including Armory Show cofounder Paul Morris and director Katelijne De Backer; and Voltashow cofounders Kavi Gupta, Friedrich Loock and Ulrich Voges, as well as executive director Amanda Coulson. MMPI, which runs about 300 trade shows annually at its various facilities around the country, will provide increased infrastructure and administrative support.
De Backer says that several firms and investors have approached the Armory Show about a takeover in recent years without success, but that the owners responded positively to the Mart’s offer because of its promise to leave the artistic team in place.
“This felt like a good match,” she told ARTnewsletter. “What the Merchandise Mart told us was that we need to stay exactly as we are. They don’t have any plans to change us; they just want to give us a stronger infrastructure, which we need. To us, that looks perfect.”
Last February, in its first concurrent run with the annual Art Show of the ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America), the Armory Show drew 52,000 visitors. The 150 international galleries participating in the event reported sales totaling $85 million.