As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases climbs worldwide and projections remain bleak, art fairs taking place in the fall may soon have to make another tough call: cancel, pivot to online, or postpone. Expo Chicago, the annual art fair that was scheduled to open at the end of September, has chosen the latter option, saying that it has pushed its upcoming edition to April 2021.
Citing both the health risks a large gathering pose, and the financial turmoil currently roiling the art industry, Expo Chicago director Tony Karman told ARTnews, “It became very clear to us that we would not be able to produce a fair that would be successful for exhibitors, and the decision allows exhibitors the time to reopen their own galleries, to take advantage of adjusting their exhibitions.”
The postponement marks the first of any art fair scheduled for this fall, including a number of fairs that rescheduled their spring/summer dates for this fall. Chief among them is Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair, which is set to run September 17–20, the week before Expo Chicago was to open. And in the past several days, two of the world’s largest art biennials, the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea and the Biennale de Lyon in France said they too would postpone their upcoming exhibitions until February 2021 and September 2022, respectively. Among their chief concerns were the production of new work and possible international travel restrictions.
Last month, Karman sent a letter to exhibitors detailing several accommodations the fair planned to make, including non-binding deposits, a reduction in booth fees, and flexible payment schedules. Additionally, the letter stated that a portion of the fair’s proceeds will be donated to its member organizations, the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) and the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA). These changes will instead be offered to galleries who choose to participate in the 2021 edition, which will run at Chicago’s Navy Pier from April 8–11.
“If you’re going to use the word partner then you need to make those adjustments—collaboration goes both ways,” Karman said. “The dealers have responded favorably and most importantly they know we’re here to listen to their needs. That’s been the hallmark of this fair since it was launched in 2012.”