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Art shows in age of pandemics: 10 virtual festivals and fairs to check out

For Your Perusing Pleasure

Art shows in age of pandemics: 10 virtual festivals and fairs to check out

Ai Weiwei’s Crysal Ball at the Biennale of Sydney in more normal times, aka 2018. (Document Photography/Courtesy Biennale of Sydney)

If you’ve already toured all four Tate Galleries, the Rijksmuseum, the Palace of Versailles, the Uffizi, 60 percent of the Smithsonian museums, and taken in a performance from the Berlin Philharmonic from the (dis)comfort of your home via Google Arts & Culture or another online platform, there’s a good chance that you’re looking for some fresh self-quarantine art experiences. AN has got you covered.

It’s been well reported that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has completely upended museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions as a lion’s share of them have shuttered–some permanently–their doors for weeks or months, furlough staff, scrap exhibitions, and scramble to assess what operating in a post-pandemic world might look like. For artists and institutions alike, the damage has been widespread and devastating.

Annual and biennial art fairs, festivals, and exhibitions have also been forced to completely alter their operations with Art Basel Hong being the first annual art fair to move to a digital setting in response to the pandemic. (And sales, as it turns out, weren’t all that shabby.) Weeks later, the Biennale of Sydney, with a theme that put the climate crisis and the struggles of indigenous peoples at the forefront, became the first major art exhibition to completely transition online after first opening prior to the coronavirus outbreak in a more “conventional” manner at a slew of galleries.

With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 ongoing and upcoming art fairs, festivals, and exhibitions available for virtual viewing. It’s an intentionally diverse mix that includes small art fairs that support local artists, regional festivals, major international art happenings, and special online-only exhibitions that reflect these weird and challenging times.

Columbus College of Art & Design Spring Art Show

The Columbus College of Art & Design’s popular Spring Art Show is now a virtual one that will be held April 10 – April 12.

How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?

Described as a “platform for the exchange of ideas at this time of crisis,” How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?  is an online group exhibition co-curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen that will be updated continuously through the duration of the pandemic. “We invited artists who are considered thought leaders, artists who struggle with futuristic pessimism, political outrage and psychic melt-downs.  The invited artists have responded with unbridled enthusiasm and we will be posting new artists every day for the foreseeable future.”

Frieze New York

Originally scheduled for May 7-10, the New York edition of the massive annual art show is reportedly in the process of arranging free online viewing rooms for participating galleries in a move that echoes the one taken by also-canceled Art Basel Hong Kong.

Fusebox Festival

In lieu of postponing or canceling, The Fusebox Festival, a “hybrid” arts festival held annually in Austin, Texas, that focuses on contemporary performance works, is going virtual with live-streamed performances, online exhibitions, live chats, digital studio visits, and more. “Think public access TV meets international block party meets live performance!” the festival website proclaims. “We see this as a platform to explore what it means to gather together and celebrate adventurous art, online.” The festival will take place April 24 through 26.

Louise Bourgeois: Drawings, 1947 – 2007 

Hauser & Wirth, the venerable Zurich-based modern art gallery with outposts in London, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, recently launched its first online-only exhibition featuring 14 drawings by prolific French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. “It’s a response to the current situation, in the sense that we’re all glued to our devices,” Marc Payot, president of Hauser & Wirth, told The Guardian. “Obviously, we’re not capable of going out into museums and galleries, but we’re still interested in art. This is a possibility to share that.” Hauser & Wirth has also launched From a Distance: Messages from Artists’ Homes and Studio, a special online video series that “aims to bring us all closer together as we navigate this new reality.”

Open! (Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2020)

In late March, the Russian Pavillon Federation announced its intentions to transition its Open! exhibition into a digital platform in response to the postponement of the Venice Biennale. “The outbreak of Covid-19 has shaken our daily routines and priorities,” reads an Instagram post published by pavilion organizers. “With a virtual opening, it [the exhibition] will kick-start a dialogue on the functions and values of (cultural) institutions.”

Pandemic Art Faire

Obviously not an exhibition that existed during the pre-COVID-19 era, the Texas-based Pandemic Art Faire was launched as a digital-only event that’s “curated to aesthetically invigorate you during this time of self-quarantine.” Per its organizers, the fair will remain online through the duration of the pandemic, and new local artists will be added weekly. “This idea literally came out of the blue,” artist and fair co-founder Scott Kincaid tells the Dallas Morning News. “We talked about art fairs being canceled, and how we could quickly set up a fair online that could only be canceled by a computer virus. In about three minutes we had the name and concept. The next morning, Scott had the entire digital template designed, and I started reaching out to fellow artists.”

Savage Beauty — Galway 2020

What’s been described as the “largest site specific light artwork ever created” is obviously something best experienced in the flesh. However, Savage Beauty, created by Finnish artist Kari Kola as part of the Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture program, does translate beautifully to film.“Savage Beauty is an enormous 5km lighting installation on the mountain of Ceann Garbh, overlooking Loch na Fuaiche,” reads the event page for this heady-sounding spectacle which was set to take place in County Mayo from March 14 through 17 before it was canceled and subsequently turned into a digital affair. “The stunning artwork will captivate visitors, inviting them to engage with the landscape and environment through an ethereal light-based and sculptural experience.”

Singapore Biennale

Although the Patrick Flores-curated exhibition concluded on March 22 (with a dramatic dip in attendee numbers during its final weeks), the organizers of the Singapore Biennale are making the entirety of the program—including works from 77 different artists and collectives, displayed at 11 different venues–available on Google Arts & Culture by the end of this month.

Sydney Biennale

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney is transitioning into an online-only affair—the first major international art show to do so—beginning on April 6 after officially launching on March 14. (It was forced to shutter shortly thereafter.)  Inspired by seven themes, the show, titled NIRIN (or “edge” in Wiradjuri, an Aboriginal dialect), features 700 works by over 101 individual artists and collectives, including a large number of First Nations artists. The art will be viewable via the Google Arts & Culture as well as through other platforms including YouTube and Spotify, and include live content, exhibition walk-throughs, podcasts, and much more.

“The 22nd Biennale of Sydney is a global platform for diverse cultures and perspectives, uniting people across the world, stimulating dialogue and inspiring change,” said Barbara Moore, chief executive officer of the Biennale of Sydney, in a statement. “Now, more than ever, it is important to find ways to connect, to help each other, listen, collaborate and heal.”