Art Market

Art Basel postponed its Swiss fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Benjamin Sutton
Mar 26, 2020 3:41PM, via Art Basel

Visitors to the 2019 edition of Art Basel in Basel. Photo © Art Basel.

Art Basel has pushed its marquee expo in Basel, Switzerland, back by three months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The fair, which typically takes place in late June, will now run from September 15th to 20th at its usual venue, Messe Basel. The decision was reached, according to Art Basel, “in close consultation with a wide range of gallerists, collectors, partners, and external experts,” in an attempt to insure not only that all parties involved remain safe and healthy, but also to make sure they all feel sufficiently secure to travel to the fair. As of Thursday, Switzerland had more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 165 deaths; Basel sits just across the border from France and Germany, two of the European countries worst hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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

We hope that the situation improves swiftly, and we will work closely with our exhibitors to deliver a successful fair in September. At the same time, we are aware of how dynamic the COVID-19 situation is and will continue to monitor the developments closely. The health and safety of our exhibitors, partners, guests, and teams remains our main priority, and we will adapt all our planning to the developing situation.

The announcement of Art Basel in Basel’s postponement came just a day after the virtual substitute for Art Basel’s canceled Hong Kong fair closed, with more than 250,000 visitors exploring 235 virtual booths, and several major galleries racking up millions of dollars in online sales. The announcement notes fair organizers are continuing to improve their online offerings.

In an interview with Artsy, Spiegler commented on the fair’s first experience with online viewing rooms:

It was never meant to be a virtual fair in the sense of avatars walking around and saying ‘hi’ to each other. It’s supposed to be a platform which consolidates thousands of works from hundreds of galleries for hundreds of thousands of viewers. It’s meant to be a space where, within one ecosystem, within one user experience, you can access all of these galleries. We always labeled this as a first iteration, and obviously there are a lot of functionalities which we’d like to build on in the future. There are a fair amount of learnings about user experience.
Benjamin Sutton