During the Art Chicago show on April 28th, Chris Kennedy, who heads up Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI), owner of Art Chicago, made a series of announcements that extended the reach of this group into the art world. The announcements concerned "strategic partnerships" between the Armory Show (the International Fair of New Art), as well as Volta (a satellite show of Art Basel), and Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. Those "partnerships" were expected to become full outright purchases, according to sources at those companies.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Armory Show staff, including Paul Morris, president, and Katelijne De Backer, director, will join the Merchandise Mart management team and continue to base their operations in New York City. The Armory Show 2007, one of the most important contemporary art fairs in the world, attracted 52,000 visitors this past February, and 150 international exhibiting galleries reported more than $85 million in sales.
"The Armory Show partnership with Merchandise Mart is an extraordinary way of celebrating the 10th anniversary of the fair in 2008. It allows us to further realize our dreams and the many possibilities we have imagined," said Katelijne De Backer, the Armory Show director.
"Merchandise Mart's infrastructure and its ability to handle back-of-the-house issues will free me and my team to focus on other aspects of the show, like dealer selection and presentation," said Paul Morris, a co-founder of the Armory Show. "This is an ideal situation which will allow us to better serve the international community of galleries that participate in the Armory Show. We now have the financial resources and the administrative support to do an even better job for our dealers and collectors."
Volta's staff is also expected to remain in place after the sale.
MMPI, a Chicago-based trade show and property management firm, produces more than 300 trade shows, market events and conferences annually. Included in its show portfolio is Art Chicago, the Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, the Artist Project, the One of a Kind Show and Sale® in Chicago and Toronto, as well as multiple design shows such as the NeoCon® World's Trade Fair, Interior Design Show Toronto, IIDEX/NeoCon® Canada and Design Vancouver, among others. MMPI also manages The Merchandise Mart and 350 West Mart Center in Chicago; Market Square, the suites at Market Square, Hamilton Market, Plaza Suites, Furniture Plaza and the National Furniture Mart in High Point, N.C.; the Architects & Designers Building and 7 2 New York in New York; the Boston Design Center in Boston; the L.A. Mart in Los Angeles; and the Washington Design Center and Federal Center Southwest in Washington D.C.