Classification of Guadeloupe as a “maximum alert zone” due to the high spread of the coronavirus has overtaken the physical Pool Art Fair 2020. The archipelago’s largest contemporary art fair will be virtual, from October 9 to 11. The online opening will take place this Thursday, October 8 from 7:00 pm.
On August 27, given the increase of the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, announced at a press conference the classification of Guadeloupe, St Martin and St Barthélemy as “active virus circulation zones”, like 20 other French departments (Martinique, Paris, Bouche-de-Rhône, Haut de Seine, etc.) and with all the binding measures accompanying this decision. Many wondered how Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe – organized by the association Frère Independent – which had already changed dates several times, could really take place.
One month later, during his press conference on September 23, the French Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, announced the worsening of the health crisis in certain French regions. Guadeloupe (like the Aix-Marseille region) was then placed in a “maximum alert zone” because of an increase in the number of deaths and new cases (16 deaths and 1059 new positive cases the previous week). We have seen the restrictions resulting from this new observation: obligation to wear masks everywhere with a strengthening of the controls by the police forces in the streets, on buses, in front of high schools; closure of many businesses; cancellation of major events; prohibition to be at the beach and river at certain times, among others. In this context, it was unthinkable that Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe could be maintained despite all the good will of its organizers and the strictest health protocol that would be put in place.
A virtual borderless exhibition
Remember that this year, the artistic event was not held in the large cruise terminal of the port of Pointe-à-Pitre but in rooms of the Fleur d’Épée hotel in Le Gosier. It is clear that managing the flow of visitors in these closed spaces (5 maximum per room) with a virus that has regained strength would have been complicated for the organization.
Going to an exhibition implies that the visitor is ready to see the works and receive the message possibly delivered by the artist. But, with such stress caused by this coronavirus in ambush, it was to be expected that the large crowd of past years would not have been there.
It is especially clear that, following this classification as a “maximum alert zone”, the local prefectural and health authorities would not have allowed this event because, except for cinemas that remain open, all major events are cancelled.
Thierry Alet, the artist and organizer of Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe, and his team had to resign themselves to changing the largest annual contemporary art festival in the archipelago. The most obvious solution was then to offer this 11th edition online and in 3D. Frère Independent, which has already initiated a “digital shift”, will have no trouble in carrying out this great fair because, remember, during part of lockdown, from April 16 to May 31, 2020, it had presented an online collective art exhibition, entitled “Le Temps du Confinement“. After this first in the archipelago, from June 11 to 21, this association had also launched an online auction of contemporary works of art belonging to Guadeloupean private collectors. Then, from July 23 to 30, Frère Independent had initiated a new online auction dedicated to small-format works.
Today, the only question remains the “digital traffic” of the art fair, the number of people who will connect to discover the works and especially to buy them. The virtual exhibition has no borders, visitors and buyers can come from all over the world.
Reinventing oneself in times of Covid-19
Being in front of your computer, having your mobile phone or tablet in your hand, is not living the festive atmosphere of the fair with the opportunity to talk with the exhibiting artists or to meet friends. It’s living another artistic experience, sometimes more solitary and calmer.
The good news is that Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe will be open to the public 24/24 from Friday 9 October at noon to Sunday 11 October at 8:00 pm. Visitors will be able to discover more than a hundred works of art made by about thirty artists. The opening scheduled for this Thursday October 8 will take place online from 7:00 pm, guests will be able to log in with code issued by the organization.
Over the years, Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe has become a place frequented by political, economic or cultural figures of the archipelago but also by simple people. This year, those who (art lovers or novices) were used to be well dressed to walk through the aisles of the fair will not have this “stage” to show off. That, also, is this fair…
It is also clear that this Pool Art Fair Guadeloupe, new formula, will have economic consequences with a lack of income realized notably by the rental of stands to artists (about thirty participants this year instead of 80 or 100), by the sale of entrance tickets (10€), drinks and food but also the non-recruitment of various professionals.
Finally, a question deserves to be asked: the online sale of works of art is currently on the rise, did the artists who did not wish to participate in this virtual edition miss the chance to reinvent themselves?