Before the virus took hold, Hong Kong had already been rocked by protests that impacted several galleries. “Since last September, people didn’t want to go out. We lost a lot of clients from mainland China and Asia who don’t want to come here,” said Catherine Kwai, founder of Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery
and co-president of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association (HKAGA). “When you feel there’s no safety, all of a sudden you cancel everything.” While her gallery did surprisingly well last year despite the protests, she said sales have taken a plunge since January. For the first time in her career, she hasn’t made a single sale this month.
Henry Au-yeung, founder and director of Grotto Fine Art, has had a similar experience with hardly any foot traffic in his gallery. He cited inaccurate and sensationalist reporting as an issue. “Similar to the social issues last year, people continue to react to information (often from social media), rather than digest and analyze,” he said. “But the core of the problem is the mistrust in the Hong Kong government. So whatever they decide to do, people first complain, then generate fear, and end with despair and anger. The art scene suffers just like the retail, tourist, and service industries.”