Frieze New York Has Been Cancelled Due to the Coronavirus Crisis, Becoming the City’s First Major Market Event to Be Called Off

The fair was set to take place on Randall's Island and open to VIPs on Wednesday, May 6.

Inside the tent at Frieze New York on Randalls Island. Photo courtesy of Frieze.

Frieze announced in a letter to exhibitors that the ninth edition of the Frieze New York art fair will be cancelled due to safety concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus and statewide restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people.

The fair was set to take place on Randall’s Island and open to VIPs on Wednesday, May 6.

“In light of global health concerns and following advice and restrictions from local, national, international health authorities, it is with great regret that we have to cancel Frieze New York 2020,” says the letter to dealers, which was signed by global director Victoria Siddall, Frieze New York director Loring Randolph, and Frieze Fairs deputy director Kristell Chadé.

“We appreciate that you, and all the other participants in the fair, were planning extraordinary presentations and we are disappointed that the strength of the 2020 program could not come to fruition, but the health and safety of everyone involved in the event remains our top priority, and we appreciate all the measures being put in place to keep the community safe.”

The Frieze directors added that exhibitors would be refunded, with details to be relayed within the next week.

The move comes after nearly all museums, galleries, and cultural centers closed in New York over the weekend. And it’s another blow to a fair calendar that’s been upended by the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 200,000 people globally and accounted for more than 8,000 deaths.

In February, Art Basel Hong Kong was cancelled, though an online version of the fair, in which many exhibitors are participating, will go live this week.

Some fairs, such as the Dallas Art Fair, Art Cologne, and Art Brussels, were postponed rather than cancelled, and a statement sent last week indicated that Art Basel in Switzerland is seriously considering moving the event to the fall. The letter to exhibitors did not discuss whether a postponement was considered, but it mentioned that Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center will proceed, but this summer, rather than in May.

The cancellation came nearly a week after Mayor Bill de Blasio banned all gatherings of more than 500 people, which surely would have included Frieze New York. When asked last Thursday, after the ban was announced, whether an event that sees 30,000 people pass through its tent over the course of five days would be held under the 500-person policy, a spokesperson for the fair said that the event was proceeding as planned.

Frieze London and Frieze Masters are still scheduled to open in the first week of October, and the tents on Regent’s Park will open during a newly packed fall fair season in the US and Europe. Joining the season’s lineup will be Berlin Gallery Weekend in early September, the Dallas Art Fair in early October, and Art Cologne in November.

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