Art Dubai postponed as coronavirus spreads in the Middle East

Fair organisers are instead holding a programme of events and exhibitions tailored to local galleries and artists

Art Dubai has been postponed because of Coronavirus Courtesy of Photo Solutions

Art Dubai has been postponed because of Coronavirus Courtesy of Photo Solutions

The latest art fair to fall foul of the coronavirus is Art Dubai, which today announced it is postponing its 14th edition in a bid to curtail the spread of the disease known as Covid-2019.

Fair organisers say they will instead hold a programme of exhibitions, events and talks tailored to Dubai-based galleries, museums and artists from 25 to 28 March, when the fair was due to take place. Parts of the original show including the Global Art Forum, the Residents section of work created by African artists on residencies in the UAE and Campus Art Dubai are still expected to go ahead. No alternative dates for the fair have been offered, although specific opportunities are apparently being considered.

In a joint statement, the fair’s chief executive, Benedict Floyd; its artistic director Pablo del Val; and international director Chloe Vaitsou, say: “The goals and ambitions for this re-configured programme maintain our objective to deliver commercial, institutional and critical engagement with Dubai’s art ecosystem—a commitment of support to our local community that we felt an imperative to uphold.” Further details of the programme are to be announced.

Despite growing fears over the virus, Art Dubai’s organisers say they are welcoming international visitors in March, “recommending that individuals follow advice from the authorities of their resident countries”. They stress that Dubai is “deploying the strictest medical and hygiene protocols”.

Responding to the announcement, Anne-Claudie Coric, the executive director at Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris, tells The Art Newspaper postponing the fair is “a sensible decision”, adding: “Too many collectors are afraid of flying and being quarantined.” The gallery’s shipment had been delayed at the airport on Monday as it was about to leave for Dubai while the fair assessed the situation.

Charles Pocock, the managing partner of the Dubai-based Meem gallery and adviser to the Barjeel Art Collection, says it is “the right and responsible decision for all”. He adds: “In the present global climate, the position taken makes complete sense. Art Dubai have managed the situation well and have shown great understanding of the grave situation we are all facing as global citizens.”

Rakeb Sile, the co-founder of Addis Fine Art, based in Addis Ababa and London, agrees it is the right call given the health risks, but notes that it is a “significant blow” for the gallery given that five artists had prepared for the show. Tizta Berhanu, who has been in Dubai preparing for the Residents section, will still exhibit her work.

One exhibitor tells The Art Newspaper that Art Dubai has agreed to reimburse 100% of costs, while a spokeswoman for the fair says “Art Dubai will offer international galleries a 100% credit on their booth fees for the next edition of the fair.” She declined to confirm whether the fair will now put in an insurance claim, saying the organisation “does not discuss its business arrangements”.

To date there have been 21 people infected in the UAE, which was the first country to register cases of the coronavirus, on 29 January. UAE officials announced this week it has repatriated Emiratis in Iran, where cases jumped from two to 1,501 in two weeks, with 66 deaths, according to official figures which have been disputed.