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Undermined by the Covid-19, art fairs finally hope to revive

Attention, pileup in sight! Through the postponements linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, several art fairs will overlap. Art Paris Art Fair opens the ball, Thursday, September 9, in the brand new ephemeral Grand Palais signed Jean-Michel Wilmotte, at Champ-de-Mars. At the same time, across the Channel, Photo London is relaunching itself at Somerset House, in the British capital. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Armory Show inaugurates its new penates the same day at the Javits Center in New York.

No sooner have the galleries repacked their stands than some will join the Unseen Photo Fair, which starts in Amsterdam on September 17th. Before pushing, a few days later to Basel, where, from September 20, Art Basel, the most important modern and contemporary art fair in the world, will be held. Well … if they can.

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A quarter of the 212 exhibitors of the Armory Show had to opt for the online version of the show, the United States still prohibiting European Union nationals from freely coming to their territory. At the end of August, Washington also advised its nationals not to travel to Switzerland, where the Delta variant outbreak continues.

The restrictions, which vary from one country to another, play on the nerves of the most motivated. Thus, to push the door of Art Basel, where the gauge has been reduced by 20%, the VIP card is no longer enough. A health pass is required, duly verified by an ad hoc certification center installed near the show. However, Switzerland does not recognize the AstraZeneca and Spoutnik V vaccines. In other words, British or Russian professionals will have to comply with a PCR test, for which Art Basel recommends making an appointment. These constraints have sparked an outcry among some exhibitors, who demand nothing less than the cancellation of the edition.

“People thirst for meetings”

In order to calm the atmosphere, Art Basel has created a solidarity fund endowed with 1.5 million Swiss francs (approximately 1.4 million euros) intended for exhibitors who will not meet their expenses. However, as long as the health situation remains under control, there is no question of canceling. For its organizer, MCH – which also organizes the Baselworld watchmaking fair – this meeting is all the more vital as its revenues have plummeted by 60% in 2020. And with 29.4 million Swiss francs of losses in first half of 2021, this year has also got off to a bad start. To go up the slope, the company had opened its capital the previous year to James Murdoch, son of the ultra-conservative media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who injected 74.5 million Swiss francs.

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