Crowds at the opening of La Biennale Paris last year—an alien sight in a socially distanced age © Florent Drillon
For the glut of art fairs scheduled—and rescheduled—for this autumn, todays announcement that the La Biennale Paris is cancelling its 2020 event will come as a body blow. The 32nd edition of the stalwart art and antiques fair was due to take place at the Grand Palais from 18 to 22 September, almost exactly coinciding with Art Basel. The next event will now take place in September 2021.
Georges De Jonckheere, the president of the Paris fair, says in a statement that the “health situation will not allow the organisation of a major international event such as La Biennale Paris and the gathering of thousands of dealers, collectors, professionals and visitors as is done each year”.
The fairs priority and that of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA), the French association of antiques dealers which runs La Biennale, is “to ensure the health of all concerned and to act responsibly for the benefit of our profession, which is already hard hit by the Covid-19 outbreak”, De Jonckheere says. More than 85 dealers had confirmed their participation.
“We owe it to dealers to eliminate all uncertainty by informing them of the decision today, so that they can enjoy proper visibility in the last quarter of this year. Thanks to the early measures put in place by the SNA, our exhibitors face no financial risks,” he adds.
Thanks to a French government bailout package, which offered up to €300bn in credit guarantees for firms affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, La Biennale was able to offer exhibitors a payment plan spread over four months after the fair. In addition, advance payments normally requested ahead of the show had been waived.
Galleries including Didier Claes, Colnaghi, Ariadne and Lucas Ratton have already committed to the 2021 edition, while the fair's organisers are currently working on a series of online events for this year. Due to major renovation works at the Grand Palais starting in 2021, the fair will now not return to its traditional venue for at least three years.
Art fairs in neighbouring Belgium appear to be taking a similar tack. Last week, it was announced that the sixth edition of Art on Paper, the Brussels-based international fair for contemporary drawing, also scheduled for 17 to 20 September, had been cancelled.
Citing the “uncertainties linked to the evolution of the Covid-19 crisis, the restrictions imposed by our governments, particularly on our travels and the constraints linked to the organisation of gatherings”, the fairs organisers said they were “not in a position to guarantee the organisation of the 2020 edition of the fair in the best conditions”. The next show will take place at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in September 2021.