Art Market

Amid Hong Kong protests, Art Basel marches on with local fair, plus a few added perks for galleries.

Christy Kuesel
Nov 26, 2019 5:07PM, via ARTnews

Police and protesters clash near Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom district of Hong Kong on November 18, 2019. Photo by Dale De La Ray/AFP via Getty Images.

Amid months of pro-democracy protests and violent clashes in Hong Kong, the future of Art Basel in Hong Kong—set to open March 19, 2020—has seemed uncertain. Fair organizers have now confirmed that the event will continue as planned, and they’ve added a few perks to entice wary exhibitors.

According to an email obtained by ARTnews, Adeline Ooi, Director Asia for Art Basel, wrote to the fair’s 242 exhibitors:

Some of you might be wondering if Art Basel is making an unconsidered decision by continuing to plan on holding an art fair in March amidst the unrest that we are witnessing in Hong Kong. The answer is: We are not. The decision to continue with the show is made in support of everything you, we, our partners, the local art scene, art collectors from Asia and beyond have invested into Hong Kong, our fair and Asia in general over the years.

The fair is offering discounts at local hotels and restaurants, as well as lower fees for services that exhibitors use for booth planning. Two galleries reportedly dropped out of the fair in early October, but no further exhibitors have withdrawn since the official exhibitor list was released later that month.

Hauser & Wirth, meanwhile, has indefinitely postponed an Annie Leibovitz show that was supposed to open at its Hong Kong space this month. Undeterred, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is forging ahead with plans to reopen on November 30th following a major renovation.

Art Basel has canceled events in the past due to safety concerns: The 2001 inaugural edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach was postponed to 2002 due to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. In that case, exhibitor deposits were put toward the next year’s edition instead.

Further Reading: What’s at Stake for Hong Kong’s Art Scene in the Extradition Law Protests

Christy Kuesel