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Feb 07 2020

Art Basel Cancels 2020 Hong Kong Edition Over Virus Fears

by ArtAsiaPacific

View of Art Basel Hong Kong 2019. Photo by Esther Chan for ArtAsiaPacific.

On February 6, Art Basel and its parent company MCH Group announced that the 2020 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong has been canceled due to the outbreak and spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Art Basel Hong Kong was scheduled to take place from March 19–21 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai.

According to Art Basel’s statement, there were several factors that informed its decision, including the “fundamental concern for the health and safety of all those working at and attending the fair; the severe logistical challenges facing the build-out and transit of artwork to the show; and the escalating difficulties complicating international travel, all arising as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus.” Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel, added: “The decision to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong was an extremely difficult one for us . . . We are acutely aware of the important role that the fair plays within the region’s cultural scene and for our galleries, both in Asia and across the globe.”

With more than 240 regional and international participating galleries, Art Basel Hong Kong is the largest contemporary art fair in Asia. Attendance at the 2019 event topped more than 88,000. It is the anchoring event of Hong Kong’s art month. Typically held concurrently on the Victoria Harbour waterfront is Art Central fair, which announced its cancelation on February 7, citing the same concerns for public health and safety. There were over 80 galleries slated to participate in the 2020 Art Central.

The announcements were widely expected, as countries in the region have suspended flights to China and the Hong Kong government has curtailed travel between the Special Autonomous Region and provinces in China. Hong Kong currently has 22 confirmed cases, while there are more than 28,000 across all parts of mainland China. As part of its campaign to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the Leisure and Culture Services Department of the Hong Kong government has closed all cultural facilities through February 17. Schools and universities are closed until early March, and government workers have been asked to work from home, with many corporations following suit. On February 2, the StartmeupHK Festival, due to run at the HKCEC from February 10–15, was postponed until an unspecified time later in the year.

Art centers in Hong Kong, including Para Site, Tai Kwun, and M+, as well as the dozens of galleries in the city were all scheduled to hold events during the art fair week. Though the cancellation of the fairs had been presumed, many organizations are still reviewing their plans for March.

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