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Art Basel launches online viewing rooms following the cancellation of its Hong Kong edition

The debut of the digital initiative was moved to March to offer exhibitors a sales platform for the works they planned to show

The 2020 edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.

Art Basel will launch an online viewing room that will run concurrently with its fairs in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. The new digital initiative has been in development for some time, but its debut has been moved to March to offer exhibitors a sales platform for the works they planned to show at the recently cancelled Hong Kong edition of the fair.

Future iterations of the viewing rooms, however, are not meant to replace the physical fair experience, but to enhance it. Participating galleries can use the platform to showcase a “curated” selection of work in addition to what is being shown at their stand at the fair with prices given as a range rather than a direct figure.

The online viewing rooms will “provide galleries with a further possibility for engaging with our global audiences, complementing the essential personal interactions that continue to underly the art market”, Marc Spiegler, the global director of Art Basel, says in a statement.

On the platform, each gallery can present up to ten works at the same time. However, galleries can exchange work throughout the duration of the online exhibition. There is no further selection or vetting process for the works included.

Like the fair editions to which they run parallel, the viewing rooms will start with select preview days, accessible only to VIP card holders, followed by several days of general access. The platform will go live to the public for the first time 20 to 25 March, with VIP preview days from 18 to 20 March.

All galleries that were accepted to the 2020 Hong Kong show are invited to participate at no cost for the first edition of the online viewing rooms, which will be available via the fair website and the Art Basel app. The fair has not yet disclosed the cost to exhibitors to use the platform in subsequent iterations, though a spokeswoman for the fair says that "we will be exploring the commercial dynamics of this after the launch".

“While the online viewing rooms cannot replace our 2020 fair in Hong Kong, we firmly hope that it will provide a strong support to the galleries who were affected by the cancellation of our March show,” says Adeline Ooi, the director of Art Basel, Asia.

After weeks of uncertainty and outcries from participants, the organisers of Art Basel in Hong Kong announced the eighth edition of the fair would be cancelled due to the increasingly deathly coronavirus outbreak. The fair was due to run from 17 to 21 March.