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Feb 24 2020

Online Viewing Rooms To Replace Events Canceled by Covid-19

by Kylie Yeung

LU YANG’s installation work at the booth of Société, Art Basel Hong Kong, 2019. Courtesy Art Basel.

Art fairs and commercial galleries in China and the region impacted by the spread of the respiratory disease Covid-19 are taking to the digital sphere to offer their artworks for sale and to present virtual exhibitions. On February 20, Art Basel announced the launch of its new digital initiative, where, free of any additional costs, exhibitors can showcase works that were originally intended for display at the recently canceled 2020 Hong Kong fair. The Online Viewing Rooms will be live from March 20 to 25, with VIP preview days beginning on March 18. 

The virtual spaces, which will be accessible via the Art Basel website and the Art Basel app, will allow visitors to browse thousands of artworks, and to search by gallery, artist, and media, as well as to directly contact gallery staff for sales inquiries. Organizers said that more details on participating galleries and their presentations will be available in the coming weeks.

As stated by Art Basel, the Online Viewing Rooms will not be utilized as replacements for physical art fairs in the long run, but will be available concurrently with Art Basel’s shows as an extra platform where gallerists can present curated exhibitions of projects not physically at the event. “While the Online Viewing Rooms cannot replace our 2020 fair in Hong Kong, we firmly hope that it will provide a strong support to all the galleries who were affected by the cancellation of our March show,” said Adeline Ooi, Art Basel’s director for Asia. “We are delighted to be able to premiere this new initiative now.”

Other than Art Basel, several other commercial ventures are also turning to digital presentations following program rescheduling and temporary closures during the virus outbreak. Hauser & Wirth gallery recently launched a digital gallery where it will present the major March exhibitions planned for its Hong Kong space as well as other newly commissioned content during its closure. 

As most art organizations in China remain closed, cultural organizations like M Woods have set up online-only exhibitions. Similarly, Mabsociety’s Bank Gallery in Shanghai have launched the online group exhibition “Pure Beauty” on WeChat, featuring paintings, performances, photographs, installations, videos, sculptures, and screenshots by 20 artists. 

Kylie Yeung is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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