Ari-Emmanuel is a busy guy. When he calls me on Wednesday, the CEO of Endeavor is crouched in New York, working on the script for an earnings call to be delivered to shareholders of his post-agency entertainment and media conglomerate, which has been IPO last year on a market. cap of $10.3 billion. Next week, he will travel to Abu Dhabi to oversee a major fight hosted by Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is owned by Endeavour. Then he returns to New York for more calls with bankers, then hits the road again.
Emanuel is in New York when he calls, but I’m in London, because it’s Frieze Week in London, and the art fair has been under the Endeavor umbrella since 2016, when the biggest company bought a participation before finally taking it purely and simply. Despite the fair’s relatively small position in the Endeavor empire — earned for millions and not the, say, $4 billion she dropped on those UFC fighters — Emanuel attended the opening of nearly every Frieze fair since he got involved. In Los Angeles last February, Emanuel was on the floor when the fair opened its doors. Within minutes he was talking to dealers at Ortuzar Projects and Karma, looking to add to his personal collection. Sources within the company tell me that when there is good press about Frieze, Emanuel sends it out to the entire Listserv of Endeavor’s 8,000 employees, making sure that even people who work for Professional Bull Riders and IMG Models know what goes on at the art fair, even though it’s not the company’s primary source of income. (Endeavour, it should be noted, represents vanity lounge corporate brother Condé Nast Entertainment.)
“I wanted the Endeavor company to be a cultural ambassador – if you want to be a cultural ambassador, the center of that is the art,” he says over the phone when I ask him about that particular point of pride. “I think the concentric circles of art in all the different areas that we touch are becoming more and more accentuated. That’s why you can’t just measure it by a P and an L.”
As we speak, Emanuel’s enthusiasm for the art world is palpable – as soon as he hops on the phone he invites me over to see the collection the next time I’m in LA, then launches into a riff on it all he found out while on the ground at the first Frieze Seoul, which opened last month. It’s a real passion, and the subject seemed to appease the famous macher peripatetic. (He opened our call by saying, “How can I help you?” as if we had all the time in the world.)
But he also can’t help but show off a little of Ari Emanuel’s old muscle, the ultra-competitive mentality that, back when he was simply Hollywood’s most powerful agent, fueled legend. which may have inspired the character of Ari. gold on Surroundings. That is to say that even if it plays the global game of contemporary art fairs, it has its eyes fixed on the competition: Art Basel.
Frieze London caps off a busy year for Frieze. The company has opened six fairs on four coasts in the past eight months. (Basel, on the other hand, opened two fairs, and one was an exhibition in Hong Kong that few people from outside attended due to the week-long quarantine still in effect last May.) expansion is due at least in part to Emanuel, who pushed the former to open an art fair on his own turf amid harsh dissent from naysayers who thought Los Angeles was too diffuse to have an art fair that could bring together both locals and the global art fair train.
“I think we did a good job because very soon I think LA will be bigger than Miami in Basel,” he said.
And later in the conversation:
“It’s not to denigrate Basel: I think they made a mistake in Hong Kong. I think we made the right decision in South Korea. I think we made the right decision in LA – I think it’s oversold now in Miami. That’s not what we want to do because, again, I think they’re just trying to make money. I think the watch fairs are in trouble. We do it for the galleries and for the artists and to make it as pristine as possible.” (vanity lounge contacted Art Basel for comment.)
Ari Emanuel makes fun of making money to make money. Have you ever thought? In any event! Emanuel wants to know how his fairs are going. When we spoke, Frieze London had opened hours before and the crowds were then intense. Three hours into the day, the line to get a cheeky slice of quiche stretched to a whole corner of the fair. That was a far cry from last October when Frieze London continued even though older collectors from the US weren’t really traveling to Europe yet. This year, the near-universal presence of gigantic light paintings in every booth made walking down the aisles a bit repetitive, but it also meant that galleries were selling works like madness to Americans taking advantage of a weak pound and a strong dollar. Thaddee Ropac sold a Robert Rauschenberg for $1.8 million, then sold at least 11 other works before the end of the day. Gagosian has sold his suite of new paintings of the young British phenomenon Jade Fadojutimi during opening hours, and Hauser & Wirth filled its back wall with enormous works, and sold a Apartment George for $900,000 and a Maria Lassnig for $575,000.