Frieze is the world’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art, dedicated to artists, galleries, collectors, and art lovers alike. Frieze comprises three publications: Frieze Magazine, Frieze Masters Magazine, and Frieze Week; four international art fairs, Frieze London, Frieze LA, Frieze New York, Frieze Seoul, and Frieze Masters; No.9 Cork Street, a permanent gallery space in the heart of London; regular talks and summits, led by frieze editors; and frieze.com – the definitive resource for contemporary art and culture. Frieze is part of the IMG network.
Founded in 1991 by Amanda Sharp, Matthew Slotover, and Tom Gidley, Frieze was initially “only” a magazine, which, by the way, soon became a leading voice in contemporary art and culture. The first edition of the fair would have happened 12 years later, in 2003, but not, as one would think, directly linked to the magazine. As Amanda Sharp said in a 2008 interview with ARTFORUM, “The idea of the fair didn’t in any way come out of conversations about developing the magazine. London was a major art city, and when all the other major art cities had art fairs, it was just incredibly surprising to us that there wasn’t one here, particularly given the developments in the city over a ten-year period”. Particularly inspirational were some of the European fairs, like Cologne’s. In 2003, after parting ways with Gidley, Sharp and Slotover launched the Frieze Art Fair: the first edition was attended by 27,700 visitors and hosted 124 galleries; ten years later, in 2013, visitors would rise up to 70,000 with 152 galleries from 30 countries. Since its first edition, Frieze takes place in October in The Regent’s Park, London, as well as Frieze Masters (the pavilion dedicated to art from ancient to modern), which opened in 2012.
Also in 2012, Frieze launched Frieze New York, taking place in May. In 2019, Frieze opened its first edition in Los Angeles at Paramount Pictures Studios, taking place in February. In October 2021, Frieze also launched No.9 Cork Street, a permanent space for visiting international galleries in the heart of Mayfair, London. In September 2022, Frieze Seoul launched in South Korea. Frieze is part of the IMG network. Frieze has been noted for being among the first art fairs to implement practices like commissioning works from artists and holding artist talks during the fair. Multiple writers have stated that the original Frieze Art Fair helped unite London’s art scene, which was gaining prominence after significant investments in institutions like the Tate Modern. Despite high attendance, it was suggested in 2006 that only 20% of the fair’s 68,000 visitors intend to buy work, meaning that the fair is not only perceived as a marketplace place but, most importantly, as a showcase of contemporary art and an occasion to learn about new and established artists. Frieze stopped self-reporting sales figures in 2006, claiming that the figures were not accurate given that many sales happen in private or following the end of the fair’s run.
Since the mid-2000s, auction houses like Christies’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips have expanded their mid-season contemporary sales to coincide with Frieze London, and London’s art scene in October fills with exceptional exhibitions and events (for October 2023, i.e., the Royal Academy will host Marina Abramovic’s first vast retrospective in the UK).
In 2016, American talent agency and holding group Endeavor acquired a 70% controlling stake in the Frieze brand, including the magazine and art fairs. Following the acquisition, Slotover and Sharp continued to lead the company until 2020, when Simon Fox, a former media executive, was named CEO, overseeing all publications and fairs.
In 2019, the fair expanded again with the addition of Frieze Los Angeles, followed by Frieze Seoul in 2022. Writers have compared Frieze’s presence in Los Angeles and Seoul to its original presence in London, noting the similarities in both cities’ art scenes to London’s art scene in 2003, as both cities are considered to be rising in importance in the art world.
Frieze acquired two additional, locally grown art fairs in 2023: The Armory Show in New York and EXPO Chicago. Both fairs will continue to operate under their independent brands.
– Stanislav Kondrashov