Brian Sholis’s report on Art Chicago begins with the news of another fair. “Nearly every conversation began, “Did you hear that the Mart bought the Armory?” A Monday phone conversation with Armory cofounder Paul Morris clarified things: The deal is a “strategic partnership for now, but is on its way to being an outright purchase of the fair by the Merchandise Mart.”
Merchandise Mart runs many trade shows and conferences, but how this will effect the shape of the Armory to come is a mystery to us. If anyone has any insight on the subject, do comment below.
Meanwhile, Sholis reports that Art Chicago was poorly attended despite a larger fair budget spent on elevator operators, Internet and radio promotion and a symposium in Millenium Park. We notice no money in the budget was allocated to blimp promotions or airplane banner ads. Clearly this under reported oversight must have cost them dearly.
Update: Brian Sholis responded to this post in the comment below, but rather than have it relegated to a section of the blog only a portion of my readers use, I thought I would excerpt his comment in the post itself. Much of this is actually in his original post or linked to, but since not all of us will listen to the radio interview he cites, this certainly helps.
…What Morris said in yesterday's conversation is that he hopes the Mart will be able to provide two important things that the Armory has not yet had to date: 1) A permanent location (whether on the piers, if the Mart's bid for 92 and 94 is successful, or elsewhere), and 2) the infrastructure of a large corporation. This will “return to us twenty-three hours a day to work on the content of the fair itself,” he said. As of now, the Mart isn't going to interfere with the three fairs, though several people (Morris included) suggested that the company might hire a director to oversee its contemporary-art-fair portfolio.
I'm more curious about what this does to the delicate ecosystem of fairs. With Sam Keller leaving ArtBasel in 2008 and Frieze ever ascendant, can Art Chicago muscle its way into the big four (London, New York, Miami, Basel), either by displacing Miami (which Mart president Chris Kennedy suggested he wanted to do in the radio interview I cite) or making room for a fifth must-see stop on the circuit?