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Sotheby’s relocated its Hong Kong auctions to New York as the coronavirus crisis worsened.

A Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong in October 2019 set a new auction record for a work by Yoshitomo Nara. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

A Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong in October 2019 set a new auction record for a work by Yoshitomo Nara. Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s is relocating its marquee spring auctions in Hong Kong to its New York City headquarters amid fears of the growing coronavirus epidemic. The move will impact the house’s evening sale of modern art and its evening and day sales of contemporary art, all now due to take place April 16th in New York; the rest of the planned Hong Kong auctions have been postponed until the first week of July. The announcement follows a new wave of international travel restrictions in the wake of confirmed coronavirus outbreaks in the Middle East and Europe.

Kevin Ching, the CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, explained the decision in a statement:

April in New York represents the best possible venue and timing for our consignors of Modern and Contemporary art. We have scheduled these sales at times that will make it easy for our clients in Asia to participate and our global team stands ready to activate the international market for the great works of art we have assembled.

The New York sales will follow the usual mid-season New York contemporary auctions—Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated, Christie’s Post-War to Present, and Phillip’s New Now sales—all of which are slated for early March. This is just one of the logistical challenges that the location change may pose for Sotheby’s, which has led the Asian art market for the last four years. In addition to managing updated travel and handling requirements, specialists will now have to focus sales strategies on potential American buyers.

The relocation is the latest in a series of art world disruptions caused by the spread of coronavirus, including top auction houses postponing the New York Spring Asia Week sales until June, museums in mainland China and Hong Kong closing, the 2020 edition of Gallery Weekend Beijing being postponed, and the cancellation of Art Basel in Hong Kong and Art Central’s 2020 editions.