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Art Basel confirms it is happening this September IRL—but with some caveats

Collectors are told they must be fully vaccinated or supply a negative Covid-19 test in line with Swiss government regulations

Art Basel is going ahead in September this year Courtesy of Art Basel

The organisers of Art Basel say the flagship fair in Switzerland will go ahead in September but with strict Covid-19 restrictions in place enforced by the Swiss government.

In an email to VIP collectors, fair officials confirm that the 50th edition is still scheduled to run 20-26 September, though capacity will be capped at 20% less than in previous years. The VIP opening will also be extended by a day, beginning with the launch of the Unlimited section on 20 September. One-third fewer tickets will be sold during the public days (23-26 September) “to ensure spacious circulation”. Parcours, the popular public art trail around Basel overseen by a fair curator, is also due to take place.

Last month, the Swiss government announced capacity regulations for large-scale events, enabling the fair to go ahead. Art Basel officials reiterate in the email to patrons that “federal regulations require that all persons present in the halls be fully vaccinated, supply a recent negative Covid-19 test or have proof of sufficient antibodies due to recent recovery from Covid-19”.

The digital offering will also be ramped up after organisers of Art Basel in Hong Kong ran a trial “hologram” initiative at the fair last month, which enabled dealers based in New York and Singapore to beam themselves into the fair and present works to VIP collectors. The fair in Asia welcomed 30,000 visitors “despite extreme travel restrictions”.

The Swiss fair will also continue to host the digital platform Art Basel Live, including online viewing rooms, live virtual VIP walkthroughs of the show floor and a service called the Show Experience Assistants which will provide “on-site assistance for patrons wishing to discover the fair virtually”.

A spokeswoman for Art Basel says: "This service was launched at Art Basel Hong Kong and offers VIPs who cannot attend the fair in person the opportunity to experience the show floor virtually. It is a bespoke 1:1 service. The Show Experience Assistant arranges a zoom, or other communication channel depending on the VIP, and helps them view specific works and discover artists and presentations, as well as facilitate introductions to specific galleries."

Last month, Tefaf Maastricht, which was due to run from 11 to 19 September, was cancelled “after careful consideration of current global circumstances," according to a statement. Last year, the fair was shut down early after at least 25 people tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the fair. Tefaf will move ahead with their second digital edition, Tefaf Online 2021, which will run from 9 to 13 September, while the in-person fair is slated to return for their 35th anniversary in March 2022.