Paris art fair to go ahead despite virus pandemic

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A visitor, wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus, looks on during the private view of Art Paris at the Grand Palais in Paris, Wednesday Sept. 9, 2020. Fears and restrictions over the coronavirus have caused the cancellation of all of 2020's premiere global art fairs, such as Art Basel, Frieze London, and Art Basel in Miami Beach, stymieing the main commercial artery of the multi-million-dollar industry.But organizers of Art Paris, France's second biggest contemporary art fair, have thrown caution to the wind, and are opening their doors to thousands of visitors from Thursday in the Grand Palais for a four-day show. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS – The coronavirus pandemic has led to the cancellation of this year's premiere global art fairs since March, stymieing the main commercial artery of the multibillion-dollar industry.

But Art Paris, which is France's second-biggest contemporary art fair, is opening its doors to thousands of visitors from Thursday in the Grand Palais. The four-day show is going ahead despite a spike in COVID-19 infections in the country.

Art Paris is the first big international art fair to physically go ahead since the coronavirus swept through the world, grounding flights, triggering lockdowns and devastating commerce.

In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the global art market was valued at around $64 billion.

“We had this conviction that we had to do this fair because it’s so important for the galleries to meet their collectors, you know, after six months of total inactivity. And, you know, everything was shut down, so it’s really essential,” Art Paris General Curator Guillaume Piens told The Associated Press.

Organizers acknowledge there’s a “risk,” and say a health team is on-site to evacuate any potential COVID-19 clusters from the galleries. But they hope that proceedings won'tt be marred by any fair-linked infections.

“The space of the Grand Palais is majestic just so it’s not seen as a confined space. It (has) more than a 45-meter-high ceiling,” Piens said.

Nonetheless, amid fears of a second wave, members of the French public have expressed dismay that such a big fair is going ahead.