Exhibitors at the Frieze Art Fair in New York City are heated over what they claim were the fair organizers’ failure to plan for weather conditions and provide proper air conditioning during the unseasonably hot temperatures fair-goers endured during the annual event on Randall’s Island last month.
The class-action suit is being brought by Shane Campbell Gallery of Chicago, which says it has participated in the world-renowned art fair every year since it began in 2012. Exhibitors were expected to pay from between approximately $34,000 to $101,000 for a booth, with surcharges added for premium locations. Some 190 exhibitors from around the globe were in attendance, the complaint states.
The dates for this year’s fair, which stretched from May 2-5, were forecast to be hot and sunny, with temperatures in the 80s. In fact, temperatures reached 93 degrees on May 3, the complaint states.
A new layout that separated exhibitors into discrete tent sections, rather than a long connected series of tents as in past years, as well as air conditioning pumped in from above rather than below, resulted in intolerable conditions for participants, the complaint alleges.
Exhibitors, their staff, collectors, consultants, and curators “were unable to bear the heat and were forced to exit the tent,” the complaint claims. Collectors and consultants either had to leave appointments made to visit Shane Campbell’s exhibit, whole “others never even kept their appointments,” according to the complaint, while “[m]any people” become ill from the conditions.
When the gallery sought a return of all its fees over what it claims was Frieze’s gross negligence resulting in damages, the media and event company offered to return only 2.5 percent of the fees Shane Campbell paid.
According to media reports, on Thursday Frieze notified exhibitors affected by the heat that it was willing to refund 10 percent of booth fees, with a minimum refund of $1,000.
A request for comment from Frieze was not answered.
Private attorney Lewis Saul filed the complaint on Shane Campbell’s behalf. He did not respond to a request for comment.