Art Basel put off making a decision about its next fair after Swiss authorities delayed guidelines for large-scale events.

Justin Kamp
May 29, 2020 5:04PM, via Art Basel

Art Basel’s marquee fair in 2018. Courtesy Art Basel.

The fate of Art Basel in Basel’s 50th edition is still up in the air as Swiss authorities have delayed their decision on the reinstatement of large-scale activities until June 24th. While the Swiss Federal Council announced its plans to ease quarantine restrictions on venues such as theaters on Wednesday, it did not provide any decision on the fair and other high-capacity events.

The 2020 iteration of the Swiss mega-fair was postponed from June to September in the early days of the worldwide lockdown due to COVID-19, and while fair organizers are still moving ahead with the new schedule, they had hoped Wednesday’s announcement would provide concrete guidelines from the Swiss government. In emails sent by to VIPs and exhibiting galleries, fair leadership said they would send an update about the status of the fair by the end of next week.

The email from Art Basel Global Director Marc Spiegler and Global Head of VIP relations Michèle Sandoz to VIPs on Friday said, in part:

Given the improved new-infection-rate situation here, we had hoped that the Council would give us distinct guidance concerning new regulations for large-scale events, which would have been very valuable for us in assessing whether, and under what conditions, we could deliver our September show. Unfortunately, the Council declared this week that it will only relay its decisions on such events on Wednesday, June 24. [...] Given the current state of play, we are working hard on analysing what the rapidly evolving situation means for our ability to hold Art Basel in September, and what form it could take. We will be sending you a further update by the end of next week.

The news comes shortly after an open letter addressed to Spiegler and signed by the gallerist Claes Nordenhake was reported on by The Canvas newsletter. The letter asked Spiegler not to carry on with the fair in such an “apocalyptic context,” saying that any edition that takes place amidst the current health crisis “would be a mere shadow of its established stature and imperil its reputation.” An Art Basel spokesperson told The Art Newspaper that the letter to the fair’s exhibitors was not provoked by Nordenhake’s, but rather by the decision of the Swiss Federal Council.

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Justin Kamp
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