Art Market

Art Basel’s owner, MCH Group, canceled its marquee watch fair.

Benjamin Sutton
May 8, 2020 4:03PM, via Forbes

Visitors pass the Rolex booth at a past edition of Baselworld. Photo © MCH Group.

MCH Group, the parent company of leading art fair franchise Art Basel, has canceled the next edition of another of its major properties, the watch fair Baselworld—and not only because of COVID-19.

The 103-year-old watch fair was originally slated to take place last month, but was postponed due to the pandemic, with a new opening date of January 28, 2021. But the change of schedule set off a dispute between the fair’s organizers and some of its participants over fee refunds, with the end result that some of Baselworld’s biggest exhibitors—brands including Patek Philippe, Chanel, and Rolex—dropped out and announced the launch of their own fair in April 2021 in Geneva. As several more exhibitors followed suit, yesterday, MCH Group pulled the plug on the upcoming Baselworld edition entirely and announced it had brokered a solution to provide partial refunds to its upstart exhibitors.

In a statement, MCH Group CEO Bernd Stadlwieser said:

We are pleased to have worked together and, in just a short time, found a solution that is acceptable to everyone. In the light of the large loss of revenue due to COVID-19 and our responsibility to all our stakeholder groups, this solution marks the limit of what is possible for us. With the amicable settlement for Baselworld 2020, we can now concentrate fully on the future.

MCH Group’s biggest art fair, Art Basel in Basel, was originally scheduled for next month, but has been postponed until mid-September due to the pandemic. The franchise’s most recent iteration, Art Basel in Hong Kong, took place entirely online in March just as COVID-19 became a global crisis. Last month, MCH Group laid off 150 employees, according to artnet News.

Benjamin Sutton
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