Art workers across the United States have faced layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts over the past few weeks because of coronavirus shutdowns. While those furloughs have mainly been confined to the museum and gallery worlds, with the Guggenheim Museum and Pace Gallery among the biggest enterprises to have put employees on leave, furloughs are also beginning to go into effect at companies that operate fairs.
According to a report by Artnet News, MCH Group, a company that operates several important fairs, has laid off 150 members of its live marketing division MC2 in the United States. Among the businesses owned by MCH Group is Art Basel, a fair with editions in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Miami Beach, and Masterpiece, which holds fairs in London and Hong Kong.
The number of layoffs represents 42 percent of the company’s live marketing division, and the staff cut follows the cancelation of Art Basel Hong Kong in February and the postponement of the fair’s Swiss edition, which is normally held in June, until September.
A representative for MCH Group told Artnet News that the cuts impacted staff in the U.S. “because in the USA—unlike in Europe—there are no measures such as short-time work to avoid redundancies.”
In addition to layoffs, MCH Group is facing challenges associated with its 2021 Baselworld fair, which showcases luxury watches. The brands Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chanel, Chopard, and Tudor announced that they would not participate in the next edition, citing issues with Baselworld’s cancelation and the rescheduling of this year’s fair amid the coronavirus crisis.
MCH Group is not the only major company that owns fairs to have announced layoffs, however. Endeavor Group Holdings, a company that owns the Frieze art fairs, which are staged in London and New York each year, announced in March that it was laying off 250 employees. That month, Frieze said it would cancel its 2020 New York edition; it has since unveiled plans to host online viewing rooms in its place.