Wet Paint: Coronavirus Upends Art-Fair Schedules, Collectors Flee New York for the Hills & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

What artist worked out at a jail-themed gym as the world burned? What advisor sent panicked videos on her Instagram? Read on for answers.

People walk through Frieze New York. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Every Thursday afternoon, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected].


For weeks, the art world has anticipated the moment when the inevitable coronavirus outbreak would rejigger travel schedules that collectors and dealers have followed for decades. And now, as New York goes into lockdown mode, several large shifts in the art fair calendar appear to be on the horizon.

The question on everyone’s mind is the status of Art Basel, the world’s most important art fair, which last year brought 93,000 people—who were not practicing social distancing—to the Swiss city’s Herzog & de Meuron-designed convention center. Art Basel is still three months away, and parent company MCH Group postponed its Baselworld watch fair two months before it was set to be held on the Messeplatz, perhaps establishing a template for when news about the world’s grandest art expo would be released.

Installation view of Basilea (2018) at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Creative Time and Art Basel.

Installation view of Basilea (2018) at Art Basel in Basel, 2018. Courtesy of Creative Time and Art Basel.

There is no official word yet on the fair. While rumors of a September trip to the Rhineland have echoed through the art world over the last week, the fair said it is waiting to make any kind of firm decision about rescheduling until it gets closer to the event. But it is certainly not ruling out holding the proceedings in the fall.

That fair’s full statement to Wet Paint reads: “Art Basel has been closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus since its early stages and continues to take the evolving situation extremely seriously. At this time, we are hoping to hold the fair as scheduled in June, while also exploring the possibility of postponing the fair until the fall, should it become necessary. We are in the process of consulting widely with our exhibitors, partners, and other stakeholders on different scenarios. If we do decide to postpone the fair, we will communicate our decision as early as possible.”

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

Meanwhile, at the end of February, Frieze maintained it would hold its New York fair in May. But now that President Trump announced a ban on all travel from Europe for a month, it may be difficult to hold the fair without an entire continent of dealers and collectors, and a source close to the fair said Frieze is now “assessing the impact” of that new development. (It goes without saying that the fair would not be held if New York City’s ban on groups of more than 500 people is upheld through May.)

And if any of these fairs moves to the fall, it will be a very busy season—there’s already Expo Chicago, Frieze London, and FIAC, and the Dallas Art Fair has been postponed to October as well. On a granular level, the New York gallery world is beset with closed exhibitions, panicked artists desperately trying to delay their shows, and collectors calling dealers to cancel sales made last week during the spree of art fairs. We hear that… everything is going to get much, much worse.


It does seem prudent to leave town at the moment if you have the means. And so, the art world flees New York for coronavirus-less pastures. The art advisor Elizabeth Margulies, daughter of mega-collector Marty Margulies, was live-gramming her Escape from New York on Wednesday.

She started at private jet hub Teterboro, then took a selfie on the jet and spoke into the camera from a home in what she said was in “a small city with zero cases of coronavirus”—but then reminded everyone that “it’s coming for you.” By Thursday, she posted a text, telling her followers that if they were in New York and could get out via car, they should “LEAVE NOW.”

Once upon a time in New York, before the virus, there were galas, and they had tins of caviar designed by Tom Sachs. Photo: Nate Freeman.


Meanwhile, all the way back on Monday (remember Monday?), people were still going to galas and elbow-shaking their way through crowds. All things considered, the Art Production Fund gala at The Grill was a swell affair, with guests arriving to their tables to find a dozen tiny tins of caviar on ice. Remember caviar? Remember laughter? Kindness?

The event was honoring the artist Tom Sachs and his wife, Sarah Hoover, a dealer at Gagosian who admitted to the crowd that she understood why many of them had no idea why she was being honored. But by the time the food came out, everyone was pretty psyched to have her be honored because Hoover oversaw the menu, which included the world-famous caesar salad served at the West Village Italian boite Carbone. And for the main course: cheeseburgers! Better days.

Avery Singer, gym rat jailbird. Photo courtesy Instagram.


Undeterred by threats of the global pandemic, Hauser & Wirth artist Avery Singer took in a workout Thursday at ConBody, the gym that makes working out super fun by pretending you’re in a jail—or, as a source called it, “the novelty gym that lampoons the carceral state.” To be fair, the workout was founded by Coss Marte, who built the business after getting out of prison and now employs other formerly incarcerated folks. #AbsOnFleek #DidTheTime

Reader: This cheese is very, very good, and reminds me that we once had joy in our lives.


Self-described environmentalist Jennifer Lawrence (who’s married to Gladstone director Cooke Maroney) had her SUV idle outside of art-world hotspot Bacaro during her entire hours-long dinner there Friday … During Armory Week, Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler was handing out, as a gift, something pretty special: wheels of Coperthwaite cheese from Churchtown Dairy, the biodynamic farm in Upstate New York where his brother, Matt Spiegler, is the head cheesemaker …


Bosco Sodi, Julie Curtiss, and other artists at Kasmin’s dinner celebrating a fabulous new show of work by William N. Copley Wednesday night at the Soho Grand, where a jazz band boogied down as the news reports got bleaker and bleaker *** Master curator Kasper König taking in the (now-closed) Gerhard Richter show at the Met Breuer with his son, the art dealer Leo König *** art publicist Bettina Prentice self-quarantined in her house in the Hudson Valley after her husband Jamie Prentice found out he was with a friend in London who tested positive.


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