Art Basel in Hong Kong (ABHK) released the exhibitor list for its March fair earlier today. But, as nothing is ever certain now, the fair company has also announced that it has brokered a contingency tenancy at its venue in May, should it need to postpone at short notice due to Covid-19.
ABHK is currently scheduled to run from 24 to 26 March at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), with 137 galleries (16 of them first-timers) from 28 countries—up from 104 in 2021. However, due to continuing travel restrictions, a huge 82 of those exhibitors will not attend in person, instead taking a so-called “satellite booth” manned by staff provided by Art Basel. Last year, 55 galleries took such stands.
Among those taking satellite stands this year are Esther Schipper (Berlin), Yumiko Chiba Associates (Tokyo), 47 Canal (New York), Carlos/Ishikawa (London), Gladstone Gallery (Brussels, Rome, New York and Los Angeles) and Kukje Gallery (Seoul and Busan). The German galleries Meyer Riegger and Sies + Höke will share a satellite booth. New exhibitors include Lucie Chang Fine Arts and Mine Project from Hong Kong, Mizoe Art Gallery (Tokyo and Fukuoka), Gallery Vazieux (Paris), Misako & Rosen (Tokyo and Brussels), Jason Haam (Seoul), Vin Gallery (Ho Chi Minh City), Galerie Mitterrand (Paris), Jan Kaps (Cologne) and Kendall Koppe (Glasgow).
The number of galleries opting for satellite booths is hardly surprising given Hong Kong’s current requirement for international visitors to quarantine for three-weeks on arrival. “In addition, travelers from a country specified as high-risk are currently barred entry into the country unless they are Hong Kong residents or hold a valid visa,” Art Basel’s Asia director Adeline Ooi tells The Art Newspaper. Inbound fights from Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, the UK and the US have already been banned entirely by the Hong Kong government (until 4 February at least).
“Our team is in full preparation mode for a show in March,” Ooi says. “However, we are fully aware that the situation is very dynamic, and at this stage it is difficult to say what the conditions will be in March. In light of this, we have secured a contingency tenancy at the HKCEC in May.”
No specific date has yet been sent for this contingency tenancy in May, nor is there an exact date that a decision on whether to postpone will made. “If we need to postpone we will of course communicate this as early as possible, and we are continuing to monitor the situation closely and keeping our exhibitors informed,” Ooi says. However, many international galleries will soon have to ship their works (if shipping by sea) and, for this reason, Art Basel has “negotiated free storage with our shipping partners—so participating galleries will be able to store their artworks at no cost in the event of a postponement,” Ooi says.
Solidarity no more?
At the flagship Swiss fair in September, Art Basel operated an optional “solidarity fund” for those galleries worried about potentially reduced sales and covering their costs, but this will not make a return in Hong Kong.
“The solidarity fund was a one-off measure we introduced in Basel to respond to unexpected developments in the immediate weeks leading up to the fair,” Ooi says. “The conditions in Hong Kong are vastly different, as travel restrictions have been in place since last year and we have been operating under the assumption that international travel would not be possible. We will not be establishing a solidarity fund, but we have created different provisions [such as free storage in the event of postponement] to best support our galleries in Hong Kong.”
When ABHK actually does go ahead, Rossi & Rossi plans a survey presentation of Rasheed Araeen’s work, Gladstone Gallery will exhibit works by Anicka Yi, Gray will show a massive David Hockney photographic drawing titled Pictures at an Exhibition and new exhibitor Jahn und Jahn will present “Order and Signs”, a presentation of works by Henri Michaux from the 1970s and 1980s.