First Look: ICM Partners' Soaring New Century City Offices Escalate the Agency Art Wars (Photos)

Art Of The Deal - MAIN - P - 2016
Noah Webb

Eye-popping views of L.A. are the backdrop for a modern-day revolving gallery in the agency's just-completed new space atop its longtime tower home: "Outside of New York City, you can't see this volume of emerging art under one roof."

Four years after ICM's partnership bought back the firm from private-equity player Rizvi Traverse Management, it also has purchased a grand new perspective by relocating in late August to the top five floors of its Century City skyscraper. The 112,000-square-foot space houses more than 200 agents and executives and row upon row of cubicled assistants (well supplied with a rainbow of LaCroix sparkling water that shares fridge space with boomer brand New York Seltzer). Unobstructed 360-degree views reach across the L.A. basin — and far beyond it on a clear day, from Catalina Island to the San Gabriel Mountains. "It's a fresh start, more symbolic than actual," says partner Chris Silbermann. "[The Sufi mystic] Rumi spoke of unfolding your own myth. That's what we're doing here."

That myth imminently will include its own confident new beacon: an illuminated logo, in 15-foot-tall letters, affixed just above the 35th story and staring down — way down — at immediate neighbors 20th Century Fox Studios and larger agency rival CAA. Such clients as recent Emmy winners Tatiana Maslany and Regina King as well as Shonda Rhimes, Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres enter via a two-floor sky lobby, then take meetings with their teams in corner conference rooms with all of the latest A/V trimmings. (The music department's conference room on the 32nd floor was billed as soundproof; impromptu listening parties during visits by clients Kendrick Lamar and Fetty Wap have proved otherwise.) The office will be christened formally with a grand-opening shindig in October featuring jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, a composer and Lamar collaborator. It's part of a series of performances and discussions planned to continually activate the space.

While the windowed panoramas are breathtaking, the agency has opted for visuals across its sweeping interiors that are just as arresting. In a collaboration with polarizing L.A. dealer Stefan Simchowitz, who has shaken up the market with his aggressive advocacy for emerging talent (The New York Times called him "the art world's patron Satan"; ArtReview, the art world's "Ari Gold"), ICM has installed 330 works by more than 80 contemporary artists on its walls, floors and ceilings. It's the latest salvo in the top agencies' fine-art wars: UTA plastered its Beverly Hills office with CEO Jeremy Zimmer's personal collection of blue-chip works (then launched a Fine Arts division and opened a downtown space that debuted its first exhibition, Larry Clark's "DTLA," on Sept. 17), WME-IMG has invested in the edgy international art-fair concern Frieze, and CAA has teamed with the conceptual periodical Visionaire.

Simchowitz will provide ICM with a rotating display that includes pieces by critics' darlings and auction house passions, their work typically grouped in clusters: "This is like having 45 gallery shows in one go," he says. Participants include Oscar Murillo, Petra Cortright, Walead Beshty and Trevor Paglen, whose work on mass surveillance has included serving as cinematographer on the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour. None of the works is for sale.

"Outside of New York City, there's not an environment where you can see this sheer volume of emerging art on display under one roof," says Simchowitz. "And for it to be in an active office space, it's unique. We've got [acclaimed L.A. multimedia artist] Sterling Ruby's 'Trans Compositional' in one kitchen! That's some heavy content right here." Says Katie Holmes, one of the first clients to see the new space, "I feel inspired walking in — the incredible art is a beautiful reflection of the respect for artists that I feel ICM embodies."

The collaboration with Simchowitz is a result of his two-decade friendship with agency partner Ted Chervin, who spearheaded the office move. He first met the dealer when Simchowitz was a producer partnered with Beau Flynn (their films included Requiem for a Dream). "When we were doing the build-out on the space, I went to [Stefan] for advice more than anything else: 'What do you recommend we do? What are our options?' " recalls Chervin. "When you make this kind of investment, it speaks to where we think we're headed and how confident we are in the path we're taking."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.