PAD London Has Pulled the Plug on its 2021 Edition Amid Ongoing Travel Restrictions and Fears of the Delta Variant

The news casts further doubt on the triumphant return of the art market this fall.

PAD is situated in Brerkley Square in Mayfair Photp: Photo Courtesy PAD
PAD is situated in Brerkley Square in Mayfair
Photp: Photo Courtesy PAD

In a worrying sign for London’s fall art season, the art and design fair PAD London has canceled its 2021 edition, which was to run October 4–10, during Frieze Week. 

Organizers said that the decision was made in conjunction with the gallery committee in light of the continued difficulties of traveling between the U.K. and France, as well as the risk posed by the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, the Art Newspaper has reported.

The fair, located in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, is known for its offerings of 20th-century design and decorative arts. It is the second year in a row that the fair has been called off due to the pandemic. It will return in 2022, with a note on the fair’s website saying it will run either October 3–9 or October 10–16.

The fair informed its around 60 exhibiting galleries that it would not go ahead earlier this month. The decision casts a shadow over the expected return of the art market this fall, although larger fairs are still planning to go ahead despite concerns.

There was no crossover of exhibitors with Frieze London, which organizers have assured Artnet News is still going full steam ahead for October. Before then, Photo London is slated to proceed in person at Somerset House September 9–12, and a new boutique fair, Eye of the Collector, is on deck for its inaugural edition, September 8–11.

Meanwhile, FIAC is holding firm on its forthcoming edition in Paris in October. “Travel conditions between the U.K. and France are easier than they were a few months ago,” a spokesman told Artnet News. “France is now on the ‘amber’ list rather than ‘amber plus’ list of countries, and there is no longer a requirement for people returning from France to the U.K. to quarantine.” He noted that several U.K. galleries have signed on to take part in the fair, including Simon Lee, Victoria Miro, Soft Opening, and White Cube, and added, “We are cautiously optimistic that a healthy number of collectors will come.”

But PAD’s cancellation is another blow for its smaller segment of the art market. The fair usually shares a tent with Lapada, but the art and antiques fair had already canceled its 2021 edition in May. Meanwhile, the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair has also scrapped its physical edition, which was slated to run September 9–12 at the Park Avenue Armory, citing the ongoing pandemic and the current U.K.-to-U.S. travel ban.

London gallery H. Blairman & Sons was among PAD’s would-be exhibitors. Director Martin P. Levy told Artnet News that while the cancellation was “very disappointing” news for the wider art market, his gallery had decided even before the announcement that it was too soon to return to a physical fair.

“Until such a time as genuinely restriction-free events are possible, art fairs not something we are anxious to do,” Levy said. The dealer also declined an invitation to do Frieze Masters this year. He noted that although the contemporary market has had success with online events, in the slower world of older art and design, “it is all about personal interaction.”

Levy expressed some confidence in 2022, when he has signed on to take part in the Winter Show in New York in January, but he was not sure that art fairs will return to pre-pandemic levels. “What will be interesting to watch will be the number of fairs. Are there fewer? Are people going to be more selective in traveling? What is the fair landscape going to be like in 12 to 18 months’ time? I suspect it will be smaller,” he said.


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