As events like Frieze New York and Art Basel Hong Kong mount in-person editions, TEFAF Maastrict said it won’t mount a physical exposition in 2021 after delaying this year’s multiple times. The fair, initially expected to open in the fall in the Dutch city of Maastricht, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had called off this year’s edition following “careful consideration of current global circumstances.”
The Dutch art fair was originally slated to open in March. It was first postponed to May due to the pandemic, and then pushed to September. Though the physical edition has been canceled, TEFAF will still hold its virtual fair, TEFAF Online 2021, from September 9 to 13. TEFAF promised a in-person return for its Maastricht fair in March 2022.
“TEFAF is focused on gathering our community of dealers, collectors, and vendors for our signature fair experience in a physical setting as soon as circumstances allow,” TEFAF chairman Hidde van Seggelen said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are excited to present a new and improved edition of TEFAF Online this September, and look forward to coming together in Maastricht for TEFAF’s 35th anniversary next March.”
A major international event on the art world calendar, the fair attracted 28,500 visitors and nearly 300 exhibitors in March 2020, even as uncertainty loomed while the coronavirus spread. The edition was shut down four days early after one exhibitor, an Italian dealer, tested positive upon returning to Italy. The Art Newspaper reported that at least 25 people tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting TEFAF Maastricht, one of the last major in-person fairs held before most countries entered lockdown.
The cancelation of TEFAF throws into question whether the Swiss edition of Art Basel, scheduled to open just two weeks later, will continue as planned.
The decision to call off the fair comes as Art Basel Hong Kong prepares to open on Friday. Though the fair will accept visitors to its physical edition, not all of exhibitors will have representatives at the event—some will mount what have been termed “ghost booths,” or displays that are not manned by anyone from the gallery. Instead, assistants from Art Basel will staff them.
In April, Art Dubai became the first fair to hold an in-person edition since the start of the pandemic. Last week, Frieze New York staged a physical edition that some participants said had a bizarre air of normalcy.