Art Paris, which is France’s second-biggest contemporary art fair, is opening its doors to thousands of visitors
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of this year’s premiere global art fairs since March, stymieing the main commercial artery of the multibillion-dollar industry.
But Art Paris, which is France’s second-biggest contemporary art fair, is opening its doors to thousands of visitors from Thursday in the Grand Palais. The four-day show is going ahead despite a spike in COVID-19 infections in the country.
Art Paris is the first big international art fair to physically go ahead since the coronavirus swept through the world, grounding flights, triggering lockdowns and devastating commerce.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the global art market was valued at around USD 64 billion. “We had this conviction that we had to do this fair because it’s so important for the galleries to meet their collectors, you know, after six months of total inactivity. And, you know, everything was shut down, so it’s really essential,” Art Paris General Curator Guillaume Piens told The Associated Press.
Organizers acknowledge there’s a “risk,” and say a health team is on-site to evacuate any potential COVID-19 clusters from the galleries. But they hope that proceedings won’t be marred by any fair-linked infections.
“The space of the Grand Palais is majestic just so it’s not seen as a confined space. It (has) more than a 45-meter-high ceiling,” Piens said.
Nonetheless, amid fears of a second wave, members of the French public have expressed dismay that such a big fair is going ahead.
“Really? I don’t think that is very prudent to have so many people together, spreading germs and bacteria. Couldn’t they just cancel it this year like everyone else?” said Karelle Dublot, a 26-year-old teacher, who was walking in the street nearby.
“It’s a terrible idea. Does the French government know?” asked Marie Pierre, 31, an unemployed Paris resident.
Art Paris was originally scheduled for April, but it was decided that a Sept. 10-13 slot would be a better fit.
About 6,000 masked guests are set to attend the Paris fair’s staggered opening — down from 17,000 invitees from last year. Guests this year won’t only pass sellers from 112 galleries, 15 different countries and their art, but ubiquitous bottles of hand sanitizer, and warning signs that clusters of people in small spaces won’t be permitted. Some art gallery owners and operators are wearing sparkling, art-infused masks to try to create some levity despite the restrictions.
COVID-19-related restrictions on travel and congregation have made going to many fairs impossible — especially for jet-setting art collectors who regularly fly thousands of miles to buy art.