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The outbreak of coronavirus has forced the art and antiques industry to take measures including the cancellation of many fairs around the world. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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The flagship top-end fair TEFAF Maastricht, where more than 70 UK dealers were standing, closed four days earlier than planned after an unnamed exhibitor tested positive for the virus. In Paris the works on paper fair Salon Du Dessin has been postponed until the end of May.

The announcement of the first major UK fair to be cancelled – Art & Antiques for Everyone in Birmingham scheduled for April 2-5 – was soon followed by news that the Chelsea Antiques Fair (March 18-20) would not be running this year.

The Edinburgh Premier Fair, run by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) & Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association (PBFA), has also called off for its March 20-21 event.

At the end of last week, however, other fairs stated their intention to go ahead including The Open Art Fair at Duke of York Square in London from March 18. Organiser Thomas Woodham-Smith told ATG last week: “We feel this fair is important as a statement to the art world that we can and must continue to trade. Wisely, judiciously but above all we must continue.”

However, the organiser later announced that "due to various factors surrounding the current crisis we have decided to forego vetting this year". 

UK auctions

UK auction houses remain open for business and reported strong sales last week. The regular auction calendar was largely intact at the time of going to press.

Salerooms have been taking measures including offering gloves at viewings for staff and clients, conducting video calls to allow clients to inspect the condition of lots remotely, making staggered appointments for visitors to their offices and holding out-of-hours private viewings.

A number of auctioneers told ATG that the biggest impact could be on future consignments with visits to clients less likely and some vendors reluctant to sell in the current climate.

Calendar changes

The situation has been changing rapidly for auctions outside the UK.

Among the firms making changes to their calendar of auctions, Phillips has decided to postpone all of its sales and events globally until mid-May. The auctions impacted include the Design sale in London (scheduled for March 26) and the Geneva watches sale scheduled for May 9-10. 

Although Christie's remains open in London (and in Amsterdam and Paris), the firm's other international offices are now closed with more than a dozen sales in Paris and New York postponed. 

Sotheby's and Bonhams both issued statements on the corona crisis across the weekend pledging to go ahead with scheduled auctions. 

In Paris the Drouot auction centre issued the following statement on Monday 16: "In accordance with French government directives, Drouot closes until further notice. We thank you for your understanding and will keep you informed as soon as possible of the auctions calendar."

Other updates:

TEFAF Maastricht closes early after dealer gets virus

Salon du Dessin rescheduled

Art & Antiques for Everyone at the NEC postponed

Chelsea Antiques Fair cancelled

The Open Art Fair to go ahead

• Auction houses stay open

• Busy week of sales unaffected

Further coverage

UK auctioneers say it’s business as usual – for now

Virus fears force cancellations across antiques fairs calendar