As the coronavirus crisis sweeps the globe, art fairs have been postponing upcoming editions. Art Basel Hong Kong, which was to take place in March, came first, followed by Frieze New York and Art Basel in Switzerland (May and June, respectively). The latest fair to postpone was Masterpiece London, which would have taken place in late June.
Art Basel rescheduled to September, which would make it the first major fair on the coronavirus-impacted horizon. It would be followed by the regularly scheduled Expo Chicago, slated for September 24–27. On Monday afternoon, Expo Chicago will release a letter from director Tony Karman that announces a reduction in fees, adjusted payment schedules, and other accommodations to exhibitors in the lead-up to the fair.
Plans for the ninth edition of Expo—which has long carried the tagline “September in Chicago. Be here.”—are very much still in place, for now. “We are moving forward as scheduled and continually monitoring recommendations from health professionals and government agencies,” the letter states. “However, if after several months it is determined that large events still should not take place, we will set new dates.”
Karman’s letter details a response to the current trying times that includes “reducing the impact of our invoicing, adjusting payment schedules, providing incentives to reduce booth fees and committing to work individually with our exhibitors to accommodate to their needs.” It also indicates that the fair will be donating a portion of its proceeds to dealer member organizations the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) and the New Art Dealers Association (NADA).
“Out of respect for the dealers and in the truest spirit of partnership, we are significantly reducing the impact of our invoicing schedules,” Karman told ARTnews. “We are limiting our ask to only 10 percent of the booth costs due in May, making a commitment to credit that same amount back to exhibitors at the fair after they meet the full payment schedule, providing an option for galleries to hold their place and not pay anything at this time if they need, limiting the next ask until June, and then holding any more invoices until we have a more definitive determination that it is prudent to move forward.” All of that, Karman said, is part of “pledging to work individually with our exhibitors to accommodate their needs.”
Acknowledging that the new dates for Art Basel in Switzerland will pose challenges for galleries that participate in both fairs, Karman said, “I feel there is a distinct opportunity for Expo Chicago to be an important convening moment in the U.S. for galleries, curators, collectors and professionals, as we would quite possibly be one of the first international art fairs in the America’s this fall. Most importantly, Chicago stands ready to do what Chicago does best—welcome the world with collaborative hospitality.”