With the Covid-19, the calendar of trade fairs and art fairs turns into a puzzle

Postponements or cancellations, the calendar of fairs is jeopardized with the coronavirus which affects all continents. Collectors, foundations, museums and institutions are preparing to live an untenable marathon at the start of the school year – or even from June – where all the events will shake up, even collapse, in a very short time. They will have to choose …

Originally postponed from May 28 to 31, the 29th edition of Drawing Fair at Palais Brongniart was finally canceled. But not yet Drawing Now, devoted to the contemporary period, at the Carreau du Temple, which was to take place at the same time, during the traditional drawing week in Paris offering a multitude of exhibitions and auctions, between Drouot, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. It is always maintained from May 29 to June 1.

An online edition of the drawing room does not correspond to the minds of drawing collectors, the decision is always made in front of the work itself. For this area, there is a physical presence of the sheet essential to judge its interest and its state that nothing can replace“, Commented its president Louis de Bayser. “Many exhibitors are relieved by this decision. Between the uncertainties of the evolution of the health crisis, the fear of visitors to find themselves in a confined space, and the fact that collectors, especially Americans will not want to come to Europe, it was unrealistic to want to maintain the show , he adds. Especially since we have no visibility on how the market will be reacted to the financial crisis and many other parameters … “

“Now, I am concentrating on the start of the school year with the preparation of the fair Fine Arts Paris, from 18 to 22 November, in the courtyard of the Dôme des Invalides. We will be 70 exhibitors but suddenly, we may have more requests ”, explains Louis de Bayser again. Created in 2017 by the organizers of the Salon du dessin, in partnership with Paris Tableau, this salon dedicated to Fine Arts from Antiquity to the present day, had already recovered the dissatisfied with the Biennale of Antiquaries at the Grand Palais, renamed Biennale Paris. Under the leadership of Georges de Jonckheere, a major figure in the art market specializing in Flemish painting (and a long-time member of the Syndicat national des antiquaires; the SNA), this event, which could rise from the ashes, will take place from 17 to September 21 under the glass roof.

It will take courage for the marathon because, afterwards, the fairs will be linked: London Frieze (October 8-11) at Regent’s Park, along with Pad London, in Berkeley square (from 5), then the Fiac (October 22-25) and, at the same time, Pad Paris at the Tuileries, whose postponement decision fell on Tuesday (October 22 to 25). It was initially planned for May 12 to 17, too early, given the confinement.

This new date could be favorable to him with the arrival of international collectors during the Fiac which creates an effervescence in Paris. But it will inevitably pose a problem for certain merchants who do both and even some, such as Jousse and Kreo, the Fiac. The schedule will not be tenable. We must not tire collectors and find merchandise … On the side ofArt Paris, the date is maintained from May 28 to 31. But it’s a safe bet that it will be postponed until June, due to the postponement ofArt Basel (initially scheduled from June 18 to 21) from September 17 to 20. Already shifted from April to the end of June (from 25 to 28), the fair Art brussels will it be maintained?

Faced with this avalanche of postponements that are not likely to give confidence, will the desire to buy art come back before summer? This is the question everyone is asking because nobody yet knows how it will emerge from this crisis. We must prepare ourselves psychologically and everyone will undoubtedly have other priorities. “We have sent some designs to customers but have received no response to date. That says it all. Everyone has their concerns of the moment ” confirms Louis de Bayser. Cancellation of the fair Masterpiece a few days ago was the consequence. The organizers preferred to prepare for the disaster, by reimbursing exhibitors 85% of the price of their stand and asking them to pay 15% to guarantee them a place in June 2021.

Not everyone has followed this path of wisdom. They didn’t see the wave happen or believe it. And they are drawing lightning today from the art market! “It is true that a fair is a lot of preparation and financial investment. When you’re nose in, you’re in a bubble, and you’re up to the endian. It has to be done at all costs. This is what happened with the Tefal Maastricht whose date is not right. I felt the danger but did not realize how serious it was, until the fair closed prematurely, on March 11, four days before the end, ” explains one of its exhibitors.

A hundred of them affected by Covid19 now realize how serious the situation is. Almost 29,000 visitors gathered in the exhibition hall in the end. And cases, including some in intensive care, have multiplied among exhibitors and visitors (from collectors to curators through some of our policies) upon their return, within two weeks of closing. Some furious merchants were indignant on social media, saying that the fair would not have wanted to reimburse them anyway and that they would not come back next year.

Was it necessary to cancel everything? An Italian art dealer – an asymptomatic case which we now know can transmit the virus – said that he had announced, as of Monday, four days after opening, that he had tested positive. And the fair took two days to react before it closed. But Tefal president Nanne Dekking (founder of New York-based Artory) who believes “to be someone very responsible “ said to have “was forced to investigate a simple rumor about who to contact because of a lack of a phone number. “

He adds: “99% of the exhibitors still wanted to do the Tefal. They were consulted one by one. The mayor of Maastricht, the province of southern Limburg, the authorities of the Netherlands, no one had issued a prohibition order in view of the sanitary conditions. There is a committee of 7 people, I am not alone in deciding. We had meetings with all the subject experts every morning to take stock of the situation. ” Tefal has no plans to compensate exhibitors for the cancellation of the past four days. She also had no plans to reimburse them if the fair was canceled. The heart of the game in all this upheaval remains money.

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Swiss Art Basel fair postponed to September

The rumor had been going up for several weeks. Unsurprisingly, the news fell on Thursday, early afternoon: Art Basel, the largest Swiss fair of modern and contemporary art is postponed, due to the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was to open to the public (on June 16 for VIPs) from June 18 to 21. It will be held from September 17 to 20, next.

This decision was made in close consultation with a wide range of gallery owners, collectors, partners and external experts, with the aim of protecting the health and safety of the community, and ensuring that the fair is attended by the largest number of collectors, curators and professionals in the Art Basel worldwide network ” announced the press release.

“A very complex decision to make”

And its director Marc Spiegler added: “We thank our galleries for the support and understanding of our very complex decision to postpone the fair. We hope the situation improves quickly, and we will work closely with our exhibitors for its success in September. The health and safety of our exhibitors, partners, guests and teams remains our priority, and we will adapt all our planning to the current situation

Art Basel cannot live without its public and its American galleries. These weigh heavily in number but also financially in this large art supermarket. And it is they who bring some of the wealthiest customers. A windfall impossible to dismiss and which counted in this decision to postpone. Especially since it will be impossible for galleries to send their works to Switzerland in time with the transport freeze. The worst of the pandemic is coming across the Atlantic, a few weeks behind Europe.

Play the card of rebirth

Is betting on the start of the school year appropriate? There is a great risk of a telescoping due to a calendar from September to October which is far too busy, between the Biennale Paris at the Grand Palais, Frieze London, Tefaf New York and the Fiac at the Grand Palais. Faced with such an influx of offers in two months, not everyone will find their account. Collectors will have to choose between events and inevitably calculate their expenses.

ABB19, Galleries, Andrew Kreps Gallerry, PR

In this context, Paris, in the center of Europe, must play the card of the market renaissance from June, with the possibility that Art Paris, planned for the end of May, will be shifted by security to June, at the same time that the weekend gallery ” explains Parisian Nathalie Obadia. “For small and medium-sized galleries, it is essential to make cash before the holidays despite government assistance. We will surely stay open part of the summer“, She adds.

“All the fairs have been canceled or postponed like Art Brussels from 25 to 28 June. We are currently for Art Paris on the niche from May 28 to 31, at the same time as the drawing room and Drawing Now. There was no question of positioning yourself at the same time as Art Basel in June. But with its postponement to September, there is now an opportunity to seize during this period“Says Guillaume Piens, director of Art Paris.

“The gradual release of containment will inevitably involve travel restrictions preventing collectors from coming so early in May as well as limitation of gauges at the Grand Palais” add the latter. If the month of June seems like a card to play for the capital, it is to be hoped that the public will have this thirst for culture after being locked up for so many weeks.

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Art trade and corona: how galleries and trade fairs are now going online

“In line with the recommendations of the authorities to contain the corona pandemic, we will close our gallery until further notice.” Almost every art dealer has sent a message like this to his customers in the past few days. Art fairs have also ceased to exist since Art Basel canceled their event in Hong Kong and the ongoing operation of the Tefaf antiques fair in Maastricht had to be stopped last week because the corona virus had been detected by a dealer.

The art business stands still. The shutdown can quickly become a threat to trade. In particular, the lack of sales due to trade fair cancellations are sensitive cuts in the business of commercial galleries. Art Basel had reacted quickly to this and announced that it would at least offer an alternative for the dealers booked in Hong Kong.

Where? In the virtual room, of course, the only room that can be considered as sterile these days. And many gallery owners are also trying to remain digitally present. An overview:

Art Basel Hong Kong

It was supposed to take place this weekend, the most important art fair in Asia. More than 230 international galleries from thirty countries are now showing their art in digital instead of in the Hong Kong Convention Center “Viewing Rooms”. On Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. China Standard Time, the preview for holders of the VIP invitation began, and the server was already heavily loaded 15 minutes later. The interest was there. And the visit for all guests, for collectors and gallery owners alike, is a new experience.

“Nothing can replace the experience of seeing art personally,” says Adeline Ooi, Art Basel director for Asia. “But we hope that this initiative can bring some support and visibility to all galleries affected by the cancellation and their artists.” And it can also be a test for the future of online art trade. Because one thing already seems clear: the corona pandemic will have a lasting impact on the art fair calendar. The latest cancellation came from New York: The Frieze is not taking place this year – not even online.

Art Basel Hong Kong simulates (until March 25) the real visit to the exhibition hall. With one click you enter the bunk of the gallery and can first read a text that can be seen at the stand. Paintings and other two-dimensional works are often digitally mounted on the photo of a wall, which always suggests the same bench in front of it, that one can sit down for contemplation. The idea of ​​three-dimensional works like sculptures is less suggestive. Here the galleries usually only have the option of showing installation views from another location.

In the viewing room at Art Basel Hong Kong: Brook Andrew, “Blue pot & gifts” (2018) at Galerie Nathalie Obadia

Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris / Brussels Photo Credit: Bertrand Huet / Tutti Image

One advantage of the online presentation: in addition to the photos, there is not only more information about the work and artist, but also the price. The inhibition threshold of having to ask for prices has been reduced. The disadvantage: you cannot visually relate the works to one another. But digital showrooms can also be curated. This is the chance to develop innovative mediation concepts for online art consumption.

Pace Gallery

The rooms of the Pace Gallery (London / Geneva / New York) are also closed to the public. The globally present megagallery tries to display part of its exhibitions online. The documentation of the London show by James Turrell shows that this idea does not work ideally for all art genres. The American artist creates changeable light spaces that normally seem immaterial and magical. However, Turrell’s LED illuminations cannot really show the best photo. The inspection of the viewing room remains bland.

On the contrary, visiting the digital exhibition of abstract watercolors by Sam Gilliam. Detailed photos come so close to the water colors that you can see how gradients develop, where the colors have streaked or where they become translucent like a silk fabric.

Sam Gilliam, Untitled (2019)

Sam Gilliam, Untitled (2019)

Source: VG Bildkunst Bonn 2020

The gallery also deals transparently with its commercial interests. There is an online button for each picture that provides information about the state of demand of the work: available, reserved, sold. The prices are also given – at least for works of art that are still available. Sam Gilliam’s watercolors cost $ 180,000. And James Turrell apparently catches even without an appealing presentation. His collectors know that his work can only be felt when viewed directly. All work has already been marked or sold.

David Zwirner Gallery

The Zwirner Gallery (New York / London / Hong Kong) already looks back on four years of experience with virtual viewing rooms. You also have to enter an email address there to be able to enter it. The multi-layered, overlapping and psychedelically colored photographs by James Welling that Zwirner shows here seem made for a digital presentation. A portfolio cut into a short film introduces Welling’s visual cosmos. The simple but dynamic layout of the viewing room is pleasantly reserved compared to the pictures. Not like a white cube as you know it from real gallery spaces, but a pragmatic functionalism.

Here, too, there are buttons about the demand status of the work, its dimensions and edition information. Available copies of five copies cost between $ 35,000 and $ 40,000. But buying with a click, you can’t. The online gallery is not an online shop as you know it from digitized retail. You can give up your interest in buying, but then you have to wait for a reaction from the gallery.

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Isn’t the art experience on the virtual sales platform a bit sterile? The question is posed by the twister artist Jeff Koons “New York Times” Answered: He feels personally and intimately addressed by the online viewing rooms, said the artist, whom his critics consider to be a bit sterile, of course. He loves looking at pictures. “But I can be just as happy when I look at a picture of a Manet painting online,” says Koons. It is about the suggestion that a work of art conveys. “There are always advantages and disadvantages for everything, but the positive aspect of these platforms is that they are good for dialogue with art.”

Of course, Zwirner also has a stand on the Art Basel Hong Kong online platform: “On Painting”. The exhibition is inspired by Leon Battista Alberti’s famous Renaissance treatise “De Pictura”, the gallery informs. The program aims to highlight the artists whose work contributes to the redefinition of figurative painting. The exhibition is shown in parallel in the viewing room on the gallery homepage and confirms the digital trend towards flatware. Jeff Koons is alongside Marlene Dumas, Kerry James Marshall, Mamma Andersson and Alice Neel – works of art worth around $ 16 million.

King gallery

The Berlin gallery owner Johann König had not applied for the trade fair in Hong Kong after three participations – if only because of the political situation. Before the virus came, protests by the civil rights movement against the pressure of the Chinese motherland kept the city in suspense. With new rooms in Tokyo, the König Galerie has sought a permanent location in Asia. He is now using the corona shutdown in Berlin for experiments in social media.

König is currently listed as an online conference host Instagram through our own gallery program. Every day at 10 a.m., he invites him on live TV tours of his gallery, which is located in a brutalist church building. At times the artist Jorinde Voigt is his guest, then Michael Elmgreen, part of the duo Elmgreen & Dragset, is added from the studio.

The format is spontaneous, direct, sometimes bumpy, then refreshingly funny. Johann König holds the camera of his smartphone in front of his nose and off we go. You chat about art and the market and all kinds of things – and pretend that Berlin is still bohemian even in crisis mode.

Galleria Raffaella Cortese

The situation is more serious in Milan. 25 years ago, Raffaella Cortese founded her gallery in the room of her student booth. Today she operates three premises on Via Alessandro Stradella, northeast of the city center of Milan. And of course their galleries are officially closed and only accessible to individual visitors by appointment. However, you are open Screening room, whose program is dedicated to video art.

For the art of moving images in particular, it makes sense to prepare a digital stage for it in the long term. Because video art always has a more difficult time at trade fairs than pictures that can be quickly hung up and taken down again. It eats up a lot of space, is technology-intensive and is also not considered to be a particularly well-selling medium. The beginning of Raffaella Cortese is now the artist Alejandro Cesarco from Uruguay with the film “Learning the Language (Present Continuous I)” from 2018.

Alejandro Cesarco, “Learning the Language (Present Continuous I) (2018)

Source: Courtesy of the Artist and Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milano

In the video portrait we see the Argentine pianist, performer and musicologist Margarita Fernández. We see her on the piano, we hear her interpreting Franz Schubert’s Andantino from the Sonata in A major. Her words are an approximation of the language of art and how different and yet similarly it is articulated.

Cesarco’s audiovisual work examines these relationships between writing, image and music. And, without realizing the Corona crisis, he asks what our real needs are today. Which space will poetry and art occupy, which can they still occupy in the future?

Gallery Sexauer

The artist Alexander Iskin is also working on this question. He describes himself as an interrealist. His “goal is to examine the digitized, the existent and the postdigital beings”. For this purpose, he destroyed his computer in a performance a few years ago, opened an “analog Instagram account” and opened his studio for chats with viewers of his performances.

He currently lives in quarantine in the Berlin gallery of Sexauer. And that for weeks before the corona virus was introduced to Germany. By Live cam you can watch him doing it. Only people who bring Iskin food and drinks are admitted. These visitors have the opportunity to help shape the resulting works. In May, the Mönchehaus Museum in Goslar wanted to show it for Iskin’s 30th birthday in the exhibition “The cause lies in the future”.

Performance by Alexander Iskin in the Sexau gallery

Performance by Alexander Iskin in the Sexau gallery

Source: Courtesy Sexauer Gallery

Will it happen? Like the gallery owner Jan-Philipp Sexauer, who made his rooms available to a completely open experiment, public institutions must now ask themselves how they have to deal with forced closings, orphaned halls and loss of perception. The art market can help them get started. Because one thing also applies in the Corona crisis: Necessity makes you inventive. This is vital for the art trade.

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