Art Basel canceled the 2020 edition of its Swiss fair.

Benjamin Sutton
Jun 8, 2020 4:40PM, via Art Basel

The 2019 edition of Art Basel in Basel. Photo © Art Basel.

The 2020 edition of Art Basel’s marquee art fair in Basel, Switzerland, which was originally postponed from June until September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been canceled. Last month, Swiss authorities put off issuing guidelines for safely holding large-scale events, forcing the fair’s organizers to make a decision about whether or not to hold Art Basel in Basel’s 2020 edition as planned from September 15th to 20th. On Saturday, they opted to pull the plug on the fair.

In a statement, Art Basel’s global director Marc Spiegler said:

We are acutely aware that our galleries are facing unprecedented challenges and economic difficulties, and we had fervently hoped to support the art market’s recovery with a successful fair in September. Unfortunately, the uncertainties that we face remain too high. The best way forward for our Basel show is therefore to focus on delivering a fair of the same exceptional international quality that the artworld expects from us next June, as we continue to support our galleries by further developing our digital platforms and by delivering our upcoming shows in Miami Beach and Hong Kong.

This is the second consecutive physical fair Art Basel has had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, the 2020 edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong (which typically takes place in late March) was canceled. In its place, a wholly virtual edition of the fair took place in the second half of March, driving some sales and capturing the attention of an art world in the early weeks of a lockdown of indeterminate duration. An online-only edition of Art Basel in Basel is due to open on June 17th, with 279 galleries lined up to show their artists’ work. The fair’s next physical edition has been set for June 15th to 20th, 2021.

The decision to postpone Art Basel in Basel, the world’s most important art fair, is another major setback for parent company MCH Group, which last month canceled this year’s edition of its watch fair Baselworld. The next physical Art Basel fair, its Miami Beach expo, is currently scheduled to open as planned on December 3rd. In the meantime, rival global art fair enterprise Frieze is still planning to hold Frieze London and Frieze Masters from October 7th to 11th. Frieze’s recent New York fair was staged entirely online.

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

Benjamin Sutton