Endeavor President Mark Shapiro Talks Expanding and "Festivalizing" Frieze Art Fairs

Frieze story and inset of Mark Shapiro of Endeavor - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Mark Blower/ FriezeCourtesy of Subject

The second annual L.A. iteration of the contemporary art fair, set for February on the Paramount Pictures lot, likely will feature events in partnership with other Endeavor businesses, including fashion platform Made.

Endeavor president Mark Shapiro is not a collector himself, but walking the eighth annual Frieze New York with The Hollywood Reporter, he spoke with forthright enthusiasm about his company's art investment (Endeavor became the majority stakeholder in the U.K.-based Frieze media and fair company three years ago) and how it intersects with other Endeavor businesses.

Shapiro stopped to meet and greet collectors, gallerists like Mara McCarthy of L.A.’s The Box and colleagues including Frieze’s artistic director for the Americas, Loring Randolph — all before the Randalls Island-set Frieze opened the doors for its VIP collectors preview on Thursday.

He also spoke about plans for the second iteration of Frieze L.A., set again for the Paramount Pictures lot and launching Feb. 13. "How do we keep the light on and how do we build more of a year-round activation in the cities where we are?" he said. "That is absolute priority for us — just widening and broadening the brand through more original content around the fairs."

Here is THR's interview, edited for length and clarity.

Three years in, even with the success of Frieze L.A., there is still a bit of befuddlement — from the outside, from Hollywood and from the art world — as to what Endeavor is doing with Frieze. What role do you personally play?
Whether it's tennis, golf or Hollywood — all the businesses report up to me, but Frieze is a little different. We put a team alongside [Frieze founders] Matthew [Slotover] and Amanda [Sharp], who are the curators of the brand, that works on the marketing, content, partnerships, sponsorships, digital, and really the whole communications approach. And beyond that, our job is asking questions. Strategically, where are we investing money? What other fairs should we be acquiring?

Here in New York, where can I see Endeavor’s imprint here today?
Take talent procurement — we don't make any kind of announcements of who's coming, but you'll see Hollywood celebs, you'll see IMG models. When we send out Frieze invitations for models, actors, musicians — it's just broad, like you're shooting darts — the response is, "Oh my god, thank you so much! I didn't know you guys were connected to it." And the people you least expect want an invitation and want to come. Some come for the culture, the conversation, the buzz and some collecting.

But overall, Endeavor plays a role of enhancing and enriching the [Frieze] brand. The overall emphasis for us is for Frieze to keep in the center of the conversation — on the art calendar and just across culture as a whole — and whatever we ever can bring to the amplify the volume of that is our collective mission. From the culinary to the talent that comes to the marketing and communications to the partners we bring in that activate around it. All the partners we have across all our assets and properties, we make not only introductions but we architect the partnership program for our sponsors in concert with the Frieze team.

An example?
Take Made [the fashion platform IMG acquired in 2015]. We wanted to do a Made event at Frieze this year, but it just was too late to come together. A Made event most likely will be on the calendar for February, during Frieze L.A. It’s a way of festivalizing the event.

Tell me more about the role Endeavor played in Frieze coming to L.A. — to Paramount specifically — and the decision for Frieze L.A. to return move next year again at Paramount in February?
Frieze Los Angeles would never have happened without Endeavor. The investment was made by us. The concept was started by us. The actual mandate to get it done was put in place by us. Paramount was our idea. The deal with [Paramount CEO] Jim Gianopulos was done by us. If you look at Frieze L.A. on the Paramount lot, I think that gave you the best feel of what Endeavor can bring to the table. And we had an unbelievable attendance from people in Hollywood. We don't represent Brad Pitt but he sure was large and in charge at that opening event!

And how is Endeavor thinking about Frieze New York? Because of course unlike Frieze L.A., which was at a relatively central location on the Paramount lot, Frieze New York is on Randalls Island in the middle of the East River — it’s what we’d call a schlep, though the fair does provide ferry and bus service.
We will be back here next year, let me make that clear, but we are looking long term: Is Randalls Island the long-term place for this fair? Is there another place to go? Endeavor is heavily involved in the search and identification of future venue opportunities.

Are you looking in Brooklyn?
Yes. Manhattan as well. But Brooklyn definitely.

So looking around here, how do you see all these galleries lined up with their wares, waiting for buyers … it’s very different from a lot of your other businesses.
First of all, we are thinking about sales. We want them (gestures to the galleries setting up) to be happy, we want our partners to be happy, the collectors to be happy. And sales leads to buzz. And buzz leads to more exposure and to more extensions [of the brand]. Sales bring buzz and buzz brings sales. They feed off of each other.

Is the success of the fairs measured only in terms of art sales?
Look, today, if we go to each of the galleries, always after the niceties and talking about the different pieces that are being shown, they immediately get into the results, because for them, beyond everything else, it is a business. We're all in the relationship business. And we're all in the audience business. And Frieze, it has both of those.