As the coronavirus pandemic has upended much of the art world calendar since mid-March, many looked toward the fall months when it seemed large-scale in-person gatherings might resume. But, as the pandemic continues to ravage large parts of the world, it is becoming clear that such events may not take place as planned, and on Tuesday, Frieze London and Frieze Masters informed exhibitors that they would not hold their fairs in early October.
A spokesperson for the fairs, which were scheduled to run October 8–11, attributed the cancellation to the “continued unprecedented challenges regarding Covid-19 (coronavirus),” in particular those related to travel restrictions and hosting large events, and said the decision came “following an extended period of consultation with all relevant stakeholders.” The fairs had previously committed to refund 100 percent of booth fees if they were forced to cancel their October editions.
In their letter, Victoria Siddall (Global Director, Frieze Fairs), Eva Langret (Artistic Director, Frieze London), and Nathan Clements-Gillespie (Artistic Director, Frieze Masters) said, “We simply cannot ask you to participate in such uncertain conditions. Please accept our heartfelt apologies that we could not make this happen.”
“We are grateful to everyone for their continued support and look forward to Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2021,” the spokesperson told ARTnews.
In early June, the Art Newspaper reported that Frieze had informed exhibitors that, if the October 2020 fair were to go forward, it would have to be scaled down, both in terms of visitors and physical size. In their letter, Frieze gave galleries a deadline of June 26 to say if they would participate.
Frieze already had to cancel the New York iteration of its art fair, which was set to run during the first week of May. In its stead, following a similar trend of other fairs across the world, Frieze launched its own online viewing platform for exhibitors, where a lot of blue-chip art was on offer and dealers reported brisk sales. In its statement, Frieze said that it plans to host its second edition of the Frieze Viewing Rooms in October, “which will benefit from significant developments since its launch in May.” The fair said that it will announce more details in the weeks to come, including plans to mark when the fairs would have taken place in London galleries.
Art Basel, whose parent company was recently restructured, had attempted to push its marquee fair in the Swiss city from June to September, but ultimately canceled it. The organizers said earlier this month that they still plan to move forward with the Miami Beach fair in Florida. Another European art fair, Paris’s FIAC, said earlier this month that it will not make about the 2020 edition of its in-person fair, set for October 21–25, until the end of the month.
Update, July 17, 2020: This article has been updated to reflect that FIAC will make its decision about its October fair at the end of July.