Museum Closures, Fair Postponements, and More: A Continually Updated Guide to the Coronavirus’s Impact on the Art World

With the coronavirus spreading across the world, many art museums, fairs, and biennials have begun to take precautions. Some have been forced to close for extended periods of time, and others have postponed major events. To take stock of the coronavirus’ impact on the art world, ARTnews has assembled a guide to how various countries’ art scenes have responded. The guide will be updated as news is announced.


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While coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the country, no major museums or fairs have altered their programming. The SP-Arte fair has confirmed that it will go on as planned, running from April 1–5.


China, where the coronavirus first started spreading in January, has been among the countries most deeply affected by the outbreak. Museums, biennials, and fairs took prompt action, closing their doors within days after it became clear that it was becoming difficult to contain the coronavirus.

The National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the Guangdong Art Museum in Guangzhou, and the Union Art Museum in Wuhan were among the institutions that have indefinitely closed their doors. China’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art was forced to postpone three exhibitions as a result of officials’ recommended closures. The He Art Museum, a new private museum located in the Shunde district of Foshan also said it would no longer open on March 21.

Gallery Weekend Beijing, which was scheduled for this month, decided it would delay its 2020 edition, with tentative plans for it to be held in mid-April—and to potentially cancel altogether, if conditions have not improved by mid-March. Meanwhile, the March opening of Beijing’s X Museum, a 26,000-square-foot private museum from collector Michael Xufu Huang and businesswoman Theresa Tse, was postponed. And the inaugural edition of February’s CAFAM Techne Triennial, which had been slated to open February 20 at the CAFA Art Museum, was postponed last month, with no new opening date announced. The Design Shanghai fair, which was slated for March, has been moved to late May.


French president Emmanuel Macron has warned that the outbreak of the coronavirus in his country “will last weeks and perhaps months.” In response, the government has banned all  gatherings of more than 5,000 people. Though that does not apply to museums, one of the world’s biggest museums briefly closed: the Louvre in Paris, whose staff made the decision to shutter the museum for several days to discuss how best to respond to the coronavirus’ spread. The museum reopened after France’s Minister of Culture and Ministry of Health assured staff that is safe to continue to run business as usual, though on March 4 it said it would no longer accept cash for tickets so as to try to prevent the virus from spreading within its staff.

Hong Kong 

In what some have said could be a boon for business in the territory, Art Basel Hong Kong canceled its 2020 edition entirely. The fair instead offered some galleries the opportunity to sell their wares via an online viewing room, where sales will be live from March 20 to 25 with preview days on March 18 and 19. Public museums in Hong Kong were among the first to be forced to close in January. In response to the crisis, Sotheby’s has relocated its modern and contemporary Hong Kong sales to New York in April.


Museums in northern Italy experienced closures in February but began reopening in early March. Affected institutions included the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and ARTnews Top 200 collector François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi, both in Venice; the Fondazione Prada in Milan; and the Castello di Rivoli in Turin. The Duomo di Milano also closed temporarily, and the Venice galleries Alma Zevi and Victoria Miro were also impacted. The Venice Architecture Biennale announced on March 4 that it would postpone its 2020 edition, originally scheduled to open in May, until August. 


Institutions across Japan have said they would be closed until mid-March. Among them are the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Kyoto National Museum, and the National Museum of Art in Osaka. Blum & Poe gallery was forced to postpone several exhibitions in its Tokyo space and adjust its hours of operations. Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art, which will remain closed through March 16, was set to open an exhibition of major loans from the National Gallery in London on March 3. 


The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht has said that it will go on as planned from March 7 to 15, even after three exhibitors—Wildenstein and Co. (of New York), Fergus McCaffrey (New York), and Galerie Monbrison (Paris)—dropped out. The fair, which will convene some 280 galleries, said in a statement that it will increase “precautionary measures, such as additional all-day cleaning services and distribution and placement of hand sanitizers at the fair.” The fair has said that Maastricht’s mayor will have the final word on whether this year’s edition is called off.

South Korea

In response to what Korean president Moon Jae-in has called “a grave turning point” for the country, the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of Korea, all of them located in Seoul, have been closed until further notice. Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, has suspended all official guided tours “until further notice,” according to the palace’s website.

United Arab Emirates

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Art Dubai has postponed its 2020 fair, which had originally been scheduled for late March. A new opening date has not been set, though the fair has announced it will organize a program in the city during the event’s planned dates. The Sharjah Art Foundation will postpone an arts summit slated to run from March 21–23 until further notice; its exhibition spaces will continue to remain open during regular public hours. Other Emirati arts organizations, including the Jameel Arts Centre, the Alserkal Avenue organization, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, have not yet announced any plans to close or cancel events.

United States

No major American institutions have temporarily shuttered yet in response to the coronavirus, though many are beginning to take precautions. Nearly a dozen New York museums reached by ARTnews—including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Morgan Library & Museum, and the Frick Collection—said that they are monitoring the situation closely. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Getty Trust has formed a Coronavirus task force to keep its employees, volunteers, and visitors safe; the institution has also canceled all employee travel to Italy, China, and South Korea. The city’s Museum of Contemporary Art has also established a task force. The Art Institute of Chicago has also limited its staff’s travel. Meanwhile, the fairs held in New York during Armory Week—the ADAA Art Show, the Armory Show, the Independent, and the Spring/Break Art Show—went on as planned, albeit with more sanitizer than usual.


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