After months of speculation about whether Art Basel Hong Kong would go forward due to the ongoing protests disrupting the city and the sudden outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, organizers announced on Thursday that Art Basel Hong Kong had indeed been canceled due to the ongoing threat posed by the disease. In recent weeks, museum openings in China that were close to the city where the coronavirus outbreak started had also been postponed. The art fair had been scheduled to take place in March at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and organizers for Art Basel Hong Kong had recently gone as far as to offer discounted service fees to nervous exhibitors to ensure that they would still attend.
“Our thoughts are with those affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak around the world,” Marc Spiegler, the Global Director of Art Basel, said in a statement. “The decision to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong was an extremely difficult one for us…We are acutely aware of the important role that the fair plays within the region’s cultural scene and for our galleries, both in Asia and across the globe. Our team dedicated extensive time and effort to ensure our show in March would be a success over the course of the past year. Unfortunately, the sudden outbreak and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus radically changed the situation.”
This is an almost-unprecedented occurrence for Art Basel, but not quite: the last time an Art Basel has been canceled was directly after 9/11, when the inaugural edition of Art Basel Miami Beach was canceled due to an anthrax scare. This story is developing, and will be updated as more information comes in.