Art Market

Art Basel announced contingency plans in the event of future fair cancellations.

Daria Simone Harper
Apr 28, 2020 4:58PM, via ARTnews

Art Basel in Basel 2019. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

Responding to the economic uncertainty precipitated by COVID-19, Art Basel detailed a contingency plan in the event that their two upcoming fairs later this year are cancelled. In a letter sent to participating exhibitors yesterday afternoon, the leading global art fair, which exhibits in Hong Kong, Miami Beach, and Basel, Switzerland, addressed “unprecedented dilemmas” and uncertain times.

Art Basel’s next fair—its flagship event in Switzerland, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary—has already been postponed from its usual June dates to September. With no definitive date for when large-scale gatherings might be able to occur, in the event of the fair’s cancellation, Art Basel explained that it will fully refund any fees already paid by exhibitors. The fair has also extended their application deadline from May 1st to June 1st, giving galleries more time to decide if they want to apply to take part in the Swiss fair in September.

Signed by Art Baselglobal director Marc Spiegler; director of Americas Noah Horowitz; and director of Asia Adeline Ooi, the letter reads:

We resolutely believe.. that physical interactions will remain essential to experiencing, discovering, and selling art in the future, as well as to building the paramount personal relationships that underpin the artworld. Therefore, we plan to start hosting fairs as soon as we feel that this can be done safely and successfully. Right now, though, the challenge that Art Basel faces is determining how we can help to sustain our galleries until our fairs recommence, alongside trying to imagine and define how the art fair of the future might differ from that of the past.

Upon the cancellation of its Hong Kong fair in February, Art Basel refunded 75 percent of the fees paid by exhibitors. This week’s letter noted that the 25 percent that was retained for the canceled Hong Kong fair “will be rolled over into next year’s stand fees, either in Hong Kong, Basel, or Miami Beach.”

Art Basel will also be hosting an online edition of its Swiss fair in time to its originally scheduled dates in June, having launched its online viewing rooms in March following the Hong Kong fair cancellation. It also shared that it is currently studying ways to “reduce [exhibitors’] costs across many levels” once fairs are reopened.

Further Reading: What Sold at Art Basel in Hong Kong’s Online Viewing Rooms

Further Reading: Hong Kong Galleries Face Harsh Realities without Art Basel in Town

Daria Simone Harper
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019