Although the coronavirus is continuing to spread across Asia and Europe, some in the art market seem unafraid that the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak will have a long-lasting impact—exhibitors at the Armory Show said that, at the fair’s opening on Wednesday, they saw business as usual. The Armory Show made few changes in response to the coronavirus, and now, other art fairs around the world with editions taking place between now and April have said they will follow suit, with the exception of two in Paris.
In statements sent to ARTnews, the Dallas Art Fair (April 16–19), Art Vancouver in Canada (April 16–19), Art Cologne in Germany (April 23–26), Art Brussels (April 23–26), and arteBA in Buenos Aires (April 16–19) all confirmed that they would go on as planned, as did the Affordable Art Fair, which has three fairs planned this month, in London (March 12–15), Brussels (March 20–22), and New York (March 26–29).
That marks a major difference in strategy from Art Basel Hong Kong, which became the first major art fair canceled because of the coronavirus in early February. Originally planned for March 19–21, this year’s fair will now take place primarily through online viewing rooms offered to exhibitors free of charge. And earlier this week, Art Dubai postponed this year’s edition, which had originally been scheduled for late March; it has not set a new opening date.
In Canada and America, however, art fair organizers did not seem concerned. In an email, Lisa Wolfin, Art Vancouver’s director, said that Tourism Vancouver, an independent group that represents a consortium of businesses focused on tourism in the city, had determined that Vancouver is currently a low-risk place for the virus. Wolfin said that no events have been canceled in the Canadian city, adding, “We attended the Outdoor Adventure Show, with over 250 exhibitors, last weekend at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and it was completely packed with thousands of people.”
Kelly Cornell, the Dallas Art Fair’s director, said that her fair is monitoring the situation, and following the recommendations of local health offices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she is “prepared to act swiftly and proactively if the need arises.”
Christine Hackmann, a spokesperson for Koelnmesse, the convention center where Art Cologne takes place, said, “For each individual event that we hold in Cologne, we constantly assess the competent authorities’ recommendations with regard to major events and, as we have done thus far, take any decisions following careful consideration and inform our customers and partners accordingly.… For Koelnmesse’s part, we take this topic seriously, because the health of all trade fair participants is paramount.” New safety measures will be put in place, Hackmann said, and disinfectant and doctors will be widely available. Art Brussels said in a statement that they would form a task force “to constantly monitor the situation whilst following WHO directives and guidance from the Belgian government.”
The Affordable Art Fair’s organizers are preparing to mount the fair with new safety precautions. “There will be increased hygiene measures on-site in line with government recommendations, including access to hand sanitizer around the fair, additional cleaning, and the bolstering of first aid procedures,” Ellen Dewerson, a spokesperson for the fair, said. Similar signage and increased offerings of hand sanitizer were also seen at the opening day of the Armory Show.
The scene in France, where there have been more than 400 confirmed cases, is somewhat different, however. The PAD Paris Art + Design fair, originally scheduled to take place April 1–5 in the city’s Tuileries gardens, has announced that its new dates will be May 12–17. Art Paris, which typically runs concurrently with PAD Paris and was scheduled for April 2–5, will now run May 28–31, at its original location, the Grand Palais. Last week, Art Paris director Guillaume Piens had said the fair would go on as planned.
In a statement sent to ARTnews on March 5, Piens said, “Our main responsibility is to guarantee the safety of our exhibitors and guests. . . . In light of recent evolutions in the situation, it seems to us that conditions will not be optimal during the initially set dates, April 2–5—which, according to health structures in France and abroad, will likely correspond to the peak of the epidemic.”
Earlier this week, the country’s largest museum, the Louvre, closed for several days as its staff refused to work over concerns of contracting the coronavirus from its roughly 30,000 daily visitors. But on Wednesday, March 4, the world’s most popular museum reopened with new safety procedures meant to protect workers at the museum, including closing the majority of its human-operated ticket windows, accepting only credit cards, and having visitors monitor their distance from each other, including in the bustling room that houses the Mona Lisa.
Additionally, the Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates said it would postpone its March meeting, scheduled for March 21–23, on the advice of the Emirati government not to stage large events, though it would still open three exhibitions on March 21 at its art space in the city.
Last Friday, February 28, various art fairs also confirmed that they would still stage their affairs in the coming months, including the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF, March 7–15) held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, SP-Arte in São Paulo (April 1–5), and the L.A. Art Book Fair (April 3–5). None have so far announced changes to these plans.
ARTnews has also reached out to the organizers of Perú Arte Contemporáneo (PArC, April 22–26) to see if it will still stage the fair
Update, March 6, 2020: This post has been updated to include news that Art Brussels and arteBA will continue as planned, as well as the postponement of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s March Meeting.