We’ll See You at the New York Art Fairs This Week. We Just Won’t Shake Your Hand (or Touch Your Face)

If you're heading out to the fairs too, here are 8 sensible safety tips when it comes to avoiding coronavirus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets US President Donald Trump at the start of the G20 meeting in Hamburg. (Photo credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets US President Donald Trump at the start of the G20 meeting in Hamburg. (Photo credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images)

As the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, with a first case in New York emerging over this weekend, those in the art industry are understandably concerned about what the disease—which the Center for Disease Control warns is likely to continue spreading in the US—means for their health, and also the health of their businesses.

This week, those two considerations are unusually tightly intertwined because of the nine art fairs dotting New York City for Armory Week, where members of the international art community convene to notch a good chunk of the year’s sales. So, what should you do?

The fair last week issued its own statement saying that it was going on, and monitoring advice from the New York Department of Health: “As the safety of our exhibitors and guests remains a top priority, we will continue to consult with experts in the field and pursue best practices in safeguarding The Armory Show 2020 edition.” The NYC Health website currently has regularly updated information with advice and a tally of reported cases. It presently advises, “You should go about your daily life, but take the same precautions that you would during cold and flu season.”

As for Artnet News, we plan to continue to do our job reporting on the industry, and will be in the field this week. Unless the city or state issues a directive to avoid mass gatherings, we will be out there covering the week’s fairs as usual—only with a few sensible added layers of caution, compiled from the expert resources now circulating the web. (We recommend Laurie Garrett’s piece from Foreign Policy.)

Here they are below, translated slightly into art-worldese:

  1. We know that shaking hands is a prehistoric token of good will and conviviality, but given that it is a great way to pass along germs, let’s be a bit more avant-garde about things, shall we? Try a wink, a nod, or a smile instead.
  2. Air kisses and, worse, actual cheek kisses are hereby suspended, be they delivered singularly, doubly, or in Swiss triplicate. Instead, make a kissy face from at least four feet away, if you must.
  3. Consider wearing gloves. If you’re sensitive about appearing over-precautions, remember: art people are kooky! Just pass it off as an affectation.
  4. If you need to touch something with ungloved hands, consider using a knuckle or—if you’re opening a door—an elbow. It’s much more creative.
  5. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Consider it a work of participatory performance art about the nature of restraint.
  6. Wash your hands frequently. If this is impractical—say, you are at the Armory Show and the bathroom line is even longer than the coatcheck—then use Purell or another disinfectant that you should be carrying around with you.
  7. Avoid sharing drinks or eating utensils. As in, don’t just pick up a half-drunken glass of Champagne and pound it.
  8. If you need to sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue. This is just basic.

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