Travel-Intensive Art Fairs Respond to Growing Coronavirus Anxiety Around the Globe

Travel-Intensive Art Fairs Respond to Growing Coronavirus Anxiety Around the Globe

As reports of new coronavirus cases continue to accumulate around the world, well-traveled art fairs with international clienteles have been appraising their plans. The biggest ones in the coming months have said they so far intend to go on as scheduled, while others—including two in Milan—have announced postponements or changes to their schedules.

The Armory Show, a marquee event in New York with VIP previews starting next Wednesday, released a statement earlier this week saying it will go on as planned, while the ADAA Art Show on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is already under way.

The upcoming European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF)—a two-week affair scheduled for March 7-15 in Maastricht, the Netherlands—issued a statement on Thursday detailing “measures TEFAF is taking to provide a safe environment for all exhibitors, visitors, and our staff.” These include increasing “precautionary measures, such as additional all-day cleaning services and distribution and placement of hand sanitizers at the fair,” in addition to working with a first-aid team that will be in direct contact with the Maastricht university hospital.

TEFAF cited a statement from Maastricht mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake, with whom the decision to continue with the fair ultimately lies: “The mayor is in constant contact with these institutions. Both bodies have, at present, given no advice which would make the Mayor decide to reconsider TEFAF’s Fair. The Mayor will continue to have daily consultations with the relevant health and security institutions.”

One of the next major fairs on the calendar is SP-Arte in São Paulo, scheduled for April 1–5. Though Brazil’s first case of coronavirus was reported earlier this week, the fair organizers said it was too soon to decide on the fate of the fair. In a statement sent to ARTnews, SP-Arte’s founder and director Fernanda Feitosa said, “It is early to tell what the impact of coronavirus in Brazil will be. This is a global concern, and for now we will remain alert. We will, of course, monitor official information coming from the World Health Organization and follow any recommendations they may issue for the region as well as recommendations from Brazilian health authorities.”

In one the most momentous coronavirus-related announcements of late, the Swiss government on Friday declared a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. In response, the MCH Group—the parent company of the big Art Basel fair in Switzerland and others around the globe—was forced to move its upcoming Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show from an opening in late March until next January.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Art Basel—scheduled for June 16-21—said the plan remains in place and that the fair is “taking the situation extremely seriously” while preparing to “take any necessary measures in order to safely hold the fair.” Art Basel just released its exhibitor list on Wednesday, after being forced to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong, which had been slated for March.

Guillaume Piens, the director of the Art Paris fair scheduled for April 2-5, told ARTnews that, while the coronavirus is “a very serious situation,” his feeling is that “there’s too much hysteria about it at the same time. I’m afraid that the media hysteria around the virus might be worse than the plague.” With a few dozen cases reported in France, Piens said the fair would go on as planned—adding that though exhibitors from South Korea and Italy have been in contact about their participation, they too would still plan to forge ahead.

“A lot of people are mixing all the information,” Piens said. “People are talking about Hong Kong. There were already a lot of political problems before in Hong Kong. It was already a difficult situation that they had to deal with, and the virus was the nail in the coffin. The deaths in Hong Kong are at very low rates. We’re following the situation and monitoring it, and, of course, we take it very seriously. But at the same time we really want to stay calm and not panic.”

Two Italians fairs scheduled to open in Milan—one of the cities hardest hit by a series of outbreaks in northern Italy—have postponed their upcoming editions. The Salone del Mobile furniture fair is moving from April to June, and the MIA Photo Fair scheduled to open March 19 has not yet released new dates.

Other fairs coming soon that have not issued statements of any kind include Art Dubai (March 25–28), PAD Paris Art + Design (April 1–5), Paris Photo New York (April 2–5), Printed Matter’s L.A. Art Book Fair (April 3–5), and the Affordable Art Fair, which has back-to-back editions planned in Brussels (March 20–22) and New York (March 26–29).

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