WME-IMG Partnership With Frieze Puts Top 3 Hollywood Agencies in Fine Art Fray

THR Patrick Whitesell Ari Emanuel_THR_WME_0199 - H 2016
Miller Mobley

THR Patrick Whitesell Ari Emanuel_THR_WME_0199 - H 2016

The agency's investment in the organization behind major fairs in New York and London follows UTA's launch of a fine arts division and CAA's recent teaming with Visionaire. As a top L.A. art advisor notes, "Everyone wants a piece of the art world."

The announcement last week that WME-IMG has teamed up with Frieze, a contemporary art company known for its two major fairs (in London and New York) and its magazine, marks the talent agency’s first official foray into the fine art world.

In a statement, WME-IMG co-CEOs Patrick Whitesell and Ari Emanuel praised the avant-garde outfit’s co-founders Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover for having “built Frieze into an incredible offering for the global art community. Their commitment to supporting artists and galleries by providing them a multidisciplinary platform to showcase their work is unmatched in the industry. We’re proud to be partnering with them and are excited about the possibilities ahead.” Details of the agency’s investment were not revealed, but WME-IMG will help to support the Frieze Tate Fund for Tate acquisitions from Frieze London (Oct. 6-9).

The partnership marks the latest in a string of moves by Hollywood agencies to align with the booming market in contemporary art. Last year, UTA launched its Fine Arts division, headed up by Joshua Roth. The agency partnered with Pacific Place, a Swire-owned mall in Central Hong Kong, to debut a series of sculptures by legendary Los Angeles artist Larry Bell earlier this year.

CAA has had a longstanding relationship with fine art, boasting a world-class collection overseen by agent Thao Nguyen. In February, the agency partnered with Visionaire to launch the latest edition of the New York-based creative company’s magazine, “The Free Issue” — which featured posters created by artists such as Sterling Ruby, Marina Abramovic, Doug Aitken and Shepard Fairey that were distributed gratis to the public in the atrium of CAA's Century City building. CAA will work with Visionaire to launch the New York edition of “The Free Issue” at the Frieze New York art fair (May 5-8).

Emanuel sits on the board of trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art, one of many high-ranking agency officials who moonlight as L.A. museum board members. Steven F. Roth, father of Joshua Roth, serves on both the MOCA board and the LACMA board, the latter with CAA’s Bryan Lourd. And the Hammer boasts CAA's Michael Rubel as board president and UTA’s Peter Benedek and Jeremy Zimmer as well as the Gersh Agency’s Bob Gersh as trustees.

Not everyone’s impressed by the encroachment of agencies into the art world, including Barbara Guggenheim, an art advisor who has counseled DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Tom Cruise on their collections. “Everyone wants a piece of the art world,” she told The Hollywood Reporter via email. “Art fairs are like other trade shows with a little more glamour and sophistication.”