Art Basel in Hong Kong postponed to May as coronavirus throws 2021 art fairs into disarray

Summer crush expected with Art Basel’s flagship show in Switzerland still scheduled for June and Taipei Dangdai moved back to July

Art Basel in Hong Kong was the first major fair cancellation due to coronavirus this year and is now postponed from March to May 2021 © Art Basel

Art Basel in Hong Kong was the first major fair cancellation due to coronavirus this year and is now postponed from March to May 2021 © Art Basel

When Art Basel cancelled its Hong Kong fair back in February this year, few could have imagined how deeply the coronavirus pandemic would affect the art fair industry. And the fallout looks set to continue well into 2021, with today’s announcement that Art Basel in Hong Kong will be postponed from March to May.

The Hong Kong show will now run from 21 to 23 May, with preview days falling on 19 and 20 May.

The new dates mean the show will take place just two weeks after Frieze New York (5-9 May), one week before the delayed Tefaf Maastricht (31 May-6 June) and a month before Art Basel, which is still due to go ahead in Switzerland in June (17-20). According to a spokeswoman for Art Basel, timings could not be co-ordinated with Frieze “because there’s only this one slot at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center that works for us”.

Adding to the summer crush, the third edition of Taipei Dangdai—which, like Art Basel, is sponsored by UBS—has also been moved back from January to July (2-4; VIP preview 1 July).

The decision to postpone Art Basel in Hong Kong was taken, the spokeswoman says, “in response to the ongoing impact of the global pandemic including travel restrictions”. She adds: “By shifting the fair to May, we hope for the travel restriction situation to improve so we are able to welcome gallerists and collectors from a wider geographic area than we could currently.”

The recent news of several possible vaccines for the coronavirus, with limited quantities potentially available by the end of this year, “supports the notion that even a two-month shift could have an impact”, the spokeswoman says. “The decision to move the show to May was made in close consultation with a wide range of gallerists, collectors, partners, and external experts, with the goals of both protecting the health and safety of our community, and ensuring that the fair will be attended by the largest possible number of collectors, curators, and arts professionals from our global network.”

Whether the fair will be chiefly attended by Asian galleries will depend on “how the global pandemic and travel restrictions develop in the next few months”, the spokeswoman says.

Adeline Ooi, Art Basel’s director in Asia says, by taking the decision early, “our aim is to support our galleries in advance planning for their 2021 programmes. We very much look forward to hosting our show in May next year and to welcoming gallerists, collectors, and art lovers back to Hong Kong at that time”.

Further details on Art Basel in Hong Kong and a list of participating galleries will be announced early next year.

In the interim, Art Basel is presenting 22 galleries in a special section of the Fine Art Asia fair as part of the new initiative, Hong Kong Spotlight by Art Basel (27-30 November).