Expo Chicago Pushes Back Its April Dates, Becoming the First 2021 Art Fair to Postpone an In-Person Event

The fair will hold a digital edition in April, with a virtual symposium slated for later this month.

Image by Kevin Serna, Courtesy of Peres Projects (Berlin) and EXPO CHICAGO.
Image by Kevin Serna, Courtesy of Peres Projects (Berlin) and EXPO CHICAGO.

Expo Chicago has postponed its 2021 edition, making it the first in-person art fair of the year to change its dates amid a bumpy vaccine rollout in the US and rising coronavirus case numbers around the globe.

The fair, which cancelled its originally scheduled September 2020 dates with the hope of a more favorable health climate in the spring, was due to take place at Chicago’s Navy Pier from April 8 through 11. Now, it is planning a digital experience in lieu of the IRL fair, as well as a virtual symposium this month.

“The most important thing we can do is monitor, listen to exhibitors and collectors, and announce a firm date with enough time for everyone to mobilize,” Expo Chicago’s director Tony Karman tells Artnet News. In Chicago, the daily positivity rate for COVID-19 cases has reached 10.3 percent, part of an upward trend that began in November at the start of the holiday season.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s "The Ship of Tolerance" at EXPO Chicago 2019. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago.

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s “The Ship of Tolerance” at EXPO Chicago 2019. Courtesy of EXPO Chicago.

Though dates for the next IRL edition are not confirmed, Karman says the fair has worked with Navy Pier to secure a series of windows beginning July 2021, including its traditional dates in pre-COVID times, September 23 through 26.

Despite these setbacks, Karman is bullish on art fairs’ long-term prospects. “I feel very optimistic that as vaccines are distributed and we get a greater handle on the pandemic, there will be a yearning from the art world to travel,” Karman says. “There’s no question that every fair in the world will benefit from an almost-likely energized audience.”

The January symposium, “Alternate Assembly: Environmental Impact in the Era of Pandemic,” will feature discussions among scholars, artists, and curators about how art can address the ongoing climate crisis in the lockdown era.

The last time Expo Chicago was held, in September 2019, it was accompanied by a new satellite fair, the NADA Chicago Invitational. The dealer organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its latest plans.

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