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  • Mar 30, 2020

More Corona-Chaos: Monday News Roundup

Another mega fair postponed: Art Basel will hold its 50th anniversary edition in September. Exterior view of Art Basel at Messe Basel, 2019. Courtesy Art Basel.

The auction schedule is scrambled. The 50th-anniversary editions of Art Basel in Basel and the 25th edition of Liste are pushed back until September. California’s oldest art school is about to close—in part because the Covid-19 outbreak interrupted discussions to rescue it. Art scenes in Asia are trying to get going again this month, but are experiencing setbacks due to new outbreaks. Here’s a quick rundown on recent projects delayed or derailed, and some of the fallout from events that weren’t canceled earlier.

On March 30, the National Gallery Singapore canceled “Matisse & Picasso: Friends, Rivals,” co-organized with the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Covid-19-induced travel restrictions have made transport of the show’s international loans difficult. Originally scheduled for May 15–August 16, the major exhibition was expected to bring together 100-plus paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other artifacts, with many making their first public appearance in Southeast Asia. Among the iconic masterpieces planned for display was Pablo Picasso’s 1932 portrait of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, Reading (La Lecture), loaned by the Musée National Picasso-Paris.

PABLO PICASSO, La Lecture (Reading), 1932, oil on canvas, 130 × 97.5 cm. Collection of Mus

As reported by The Art Newspaper, the Parisian museum, which has been working on launching a branch in South Korea since 2016, was “on the point of signing” the requisite paperwork before the onset of Covid-19 caused global lockdowns and border restrictions. The institute currently has satellite locations at Metz, Brussels, and most recently Shanghai, the latter of which was inaugurated by French president Emmanuel Macron in November 2019.

Exterior view of Centre Pompidou in Paris, with LEK & SOWAT‘s installation J’aurais voulu

The 2020 edition of Masterpiece London, originally slated for June 24 to July 1, is yet another art fair that has been affected by the escalating spread of Covid-19. According to a press release on March 26, fair organizers will be sharing details about “a range of initiatives” in lieu of the event shortly. With the United Kingdom placed on a police-enforced lockdown, public gatherings of more than two people are now banned in the country.

Exterior view of the 2019 edition of Masterpiece London, which canceled its 2020 fair due to Covid-19. Image via Masterpiece London’s Facebook page.

Anna Brady from The Art Newspaper has been tracking down gallerists and visitors infected during The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, which opened to VIPs on March 5 and ended its public run four days early, on March 11. By Brady’s count there are at least 25 people who worked at or visited TEFAF who are confirmed to have Covid-19, with some patients hospitalized in intensive care. As AAP reported, TEFAF claimed to be following regional health officials in their decisions and maintains—in spite of all medical science—that an infected but asymptomatic Italian gallerist who worked at the fair for three days before testing positive posed “no risk” to the public or workers. As Brady reports, TEFAF refuses to accept any responsibility for holding an event where 28,500 people congregated from around Europe—even as cities and regions, including northern Italy, were undergoing massive outbreaks. 

General view of

Art Dubai, which postponed its 2020 fair, has launched a series of online programs including a live broadcast of its annual transdisciplinary summit, Global Art Forum, on March 25. Hosted by writer Shumon Basar, the 14th edition of the series, titled “‘Do You Story?’ Newshour Special,” centered on the impact of the novel coronavirus. The program featured several Dubai-based panelists, who joined the online discussion remotely, including artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan and the creative director of Dubai’s Museum of the Future, Brendan McGetrick, as well as others based abroad, such as New Zealand artist Simon Denny. Marina Fokidis, the curator of Art Dubai’s 2020 performance program, also chimed in to talk about “On(line) Healing” with contributions from Angelo Plessas, Bahar Noorizadeh, Imaad Majeed, Tabita Rezaire, and Tiago Sant’Ana.

On Friday, March 27, Asia Society Hong Kong (ASHK) announced that it was closing for two weeks in order to contain the spread of Covid-19, which has had a resurgence in Hong Kong. On Saturday, March 28, ASHK was meant to host the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association’s (HKAGA) Art Talk program and an all-day “picnic” tour of the recently opened display of outdoor sculptures by member galleries. The Art Talk program went ahead, streamed online, but the ASHK premises is closed to the public through April 10. ASHK had also intended to open its exhibition “Next Act” on March 31.

The inaugural Yerevan Biennial, initially scheduled for later this year, will now debut on April 15, 2021. Lorenzo Fusi, formerly the artistic director of Prix International d’Art Contemporain of the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco between 2014–2020, and previously the international curator for the 2010 and 2012 editions of the Liverpool Biennial, is the artistic director. Meanwhile, the Yerevan Biennial is planning digital initiatives.

The inaugural Yerevan Biennial has been postponed to April 2021. Image via the Yerevan Biennial’s Facebook page.

And finally, AAP learned during a tour of the Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms (March 18–25) that Boers-Li Gallery of Beijing is renaming itself Spurs Gallery. Spurs, "as in what the cowboys used to wear to kick horses to go faster," was the explanation. Giddy-up, Beijing art scene.

Exterior of Boers-Li Gallery, now known as Spurs Gallery, in Beijing. Image via Boers-Li’s page on the Art Basel website.

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