As Omicron Surges, Art Fairs Slated for the Winter Weigh Postponing In-Person Editions

Since its detection in November, the highly transmissible Omicron variant has caused a surge in coronavirus cases worldwide. In response, several museums in America and Europe have introduced new health safety measures—including temporary closures and limited capacity—while several art fairs have been forced reconsider their in-person editions this winter.

On Monday, the Outsider Art Fair, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, announced that its upcoming event, slated for February 3–6 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan, will be moved to March 3–6. Breakthrough infections soared in New York beginning in late 2021, with another surge anticipated after the holiday season. In late December, New York’s Winter Show postponed its 2022 fair originally scheduled for January 21-30. New spring dates have yet to be announced.

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The India Art Fair said that it would reschedule its 2022 edition in New Delhi from February 3–6 to April 28–May 1. The decision came after the Indian government placed strict restrictions on cultural festivals and business events in the hope of halting the spread of the variant through the country, which suffered a devastating second wave of Covid-19 in spring 2021. IAF is the largest art fair in Southeast Asia, with 75 galleries and institutions scheduled to exhibit at its 2022 edition as of December.   

Meanwhile, the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, the Netherlands, postponed its in-person edition for the third straight year, with organizers citing “the global volatility of COVID-19” in a statement issued in December. TEFAF has been among the most Covid-cautious fairs since dozens of cases were linked to its 2020 show. When that edition was mounted in Maastricht in February 2020, just before lockdown, organizers were accused of being slow to respond to the outbreak. The fair’s 2021 Maastricht edition was later postponed, then canceled outright.

Some art fairs planned for the coming months are moving forward as planned—with new health measures. The London Art Far, the U.K.’s first major art event of 2022, will open on January 19. In a statement on its website, the fair reiterated its commitment to Covid protocols, saying that it would place a cap on visitors and increase aisle width to encourage social distancing.

San Francisco’s FOG Design + Art fair will return to the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture on January 20 after canceling in 2021 due to the pandemic. Proof of vaccination is mandatory, and attendees to its gala night will be required to test negative for the coronavirus.

The LA Art Show, opening January 19 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will require vaccination cards and PCR tests for all visitors entering the fair. A spokesperson for the show told ARTnews, “We’ve been working closely with the convention center, the city of Los Angeles, and the CDC to make sure all protocols are in place.”


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