To kiss or not to kiss?

That was the question as the Armory Show greeted VIPs on Wednesday in New York.

Thousands of people attended the annual art bazaar spread over two Hudson River piers, with 183 galleries from 32 countries, including China and Italy. The fair, which runs through Sunday, typically draws as many as 65,000 people.

While a few die-hards planted kisses on fellow attendees, most opted for elbow taps, fist bumps, bows or other improvisational greetings. Exhibitors armed with bottles of hand sanitizers offered them to clients amid a drumbeat of news about the spreading threat from the coronavirus.

“It’s like a giant petri dish,” said Stavros Merjos, a Los Angeles-based collector, rushing through the aisles.

The early hours drew a thinner crowd than in previous years, although some galleries attributed this to a staggered opening by the organizers. It was mostly business as usual, save for at least two canceled events: two collector couples opted out of hosting visits by hundreds of VIPs to their homes, a signature part of the Armory Show’s program.

“No one wants to touch each other,” said Peter Hort, whose parents hosted 1,200 people the night before for the annual viewing of their personal collection in Tribeca. After the hordes departed, “we washed our hands,” he said.

Alfred Kornfeld, a Berlin-based gallery owner, said he didn’t feel safe. “But what can I do? I am not staying at home.” His booth displayed “The Flooding of the Louvre,” a video installation by Georgian artist Tezi Gabunia warning of the threat of disaster.

Some salespeople were concerned about attendance.

But red dots were sprinkled all over Kavi Gupta’s booth, with all works sold for prices topping at $75,000. “There is a waiting list for every piece,” said the Chicago-based dealer.

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