TEFAF Maastricht Closes Early After Exhibitor Diagnosed with Covid-19
By Pamela Wong
The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, the Netherlands, shuttered on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 pm local time, four days ahead of schedule after an exhibitor tested positive for Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus.
The unidentified Italian exhibitor reportedly did not show symptoms during his attendance at the fair from March 5 to 7, but was diagnosed with Covid-19 just two days later, on March 9, after he went home. Only at this point was TEFAF made aware of his condition.
Although regional health authorities GGD Zuid Limburg and Veiligheidsregio Zuid-Limburg (VRZL), according to TEFAF’s initial announcement on March 11, contacted the person and determined that he was “not contagious during his time in TEFAF” and therefore advised the fair to continue, organizers of TEFAF later decided to end the fair due to rising concerns.
According to a virology analysis of nine infected patients published by medRxiv, the preprint server for health sciences, Covid-19 can be spread by infected patients during the incubation period even when no symptoms are shown.
In its second press release on Wednesday, TEFAF said that it arrived at the decision after “close consultation with the city of Maastricht, the health authorities, and [Maastricht Exhibition and Conference Centre] MECC Maastricht.” The organizers further explained that, “while the health advice of the authorities in the immediate region has not changed, we understand the situation in the Netherlands and neighboring countries is changing. We have also taken into account the growing concern of exhibitors, visitors and staff and the ever-growing difficulties regarding travel and transport.”
Speaking of the early closure of the major European art fair, particularly renowned for its display of old masters, the mayor of Maastricht, Annemarie Penn te Strake, said, “We understand the unrest is growing due to circumstances in the countries of origin and the regions surrounding us. It’s only right that there is attention to this concern.”
TEFAF Maastricht runs longer than most other art fairs, and was originally scheduled to be open between March 7 and 15 for its 2020 edition, with 285 international exhibitors. While the number of visitors was notably lower than last year with fewer American and Asian buyers, according to Forbes, around 10,000 international visitors gathered on the VIP preview days between March 5 and 6. TEFAF reported strong sales from gallerists during those opening days, saying the event had “a fantastic atmosphere.” However, three American galleries had pulled out before the event even opened.
Officially declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, Covid-19 has infected nearly 120,000 people across six continents at the time of writing. Italy, with the highest number of reported cases in Europe, imposed a national lockdown on March 9. Meanwhile, United States president Donald J. Trump announced on March 11 that most travel from continental Europe to the country will be restricted for the next 30 days starting from March 13.
Since the first cases were reported in Wuhan in December, global art institutions have closed and events have been canceled in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Art Basel Hong Kong canceled its 2020 edition in February, while Art Dubai has replaced its March fair with a smaller arts program.
The fourth edition of TEFAF New York Spring is currently slated for May 8–11.
Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor.
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