The 2020 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong has been cancelled due to the "sudden and widespread outbreak" of the coronavirus in China, organisers confirmed on Thursday.
The Asian edition of the mammoth international art fair was meant to run from March 19 to 21 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The Swiss fair's owner MCH Group cited several reasons for their decision, including "severe logistical challenges facing the build-out and transit of artwork to the show; and the escalating difficulties complicating international travel, all arising as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus."
The virus, which broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December, has killed at least 630 people and infected tens of thousands others. Majority of the cases remain in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has faced pressure from city residents to fully close the borders to the mainland to stem the spread of the virus, though the leader has said it would pose logistical challenges and negatively affect businesses.
The arrival of the virus in Hong Kong has added to Lam's list of challenges, as her government has been attempting to quell Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests since last year.
"The decision to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong was an extremely difficult one for us," Bernd Stadlwieser, chief executive of MCH Group, said. "We explored every other possible option, including postponing the fair, and gathered advice and perspectives from many gallerists, partners, and external experts. However, today, we have no other option but to cancel the fair."
According to artnews.com, the fair organisers will offer exhibitors a 75 per cent reimbursement of the stand fee and will no longer need to pay for earlier orders for walls or lighting.
“It wasn’t that surprising,” says Yasmin Atassi, founder of Dubai’s Green Art Gallery, which was meant to participate at the fair for the first time this year. “We knew they were thinking about it because they sent an email last week... But I think they made the right choice.”
Atassi says that she paid around $12,000 for the stand fee, 75 percent of which will be reimbursed, as organisers stated.
Green Art Gallery was meant to show the work of Brazilian artist Ana Mazzei, who completed a project specially for the fair.