Art Basel to go ahead in Switzerland in September

The flagship fair will follow many of the initiatives at Art Basel Hong Kong in May

A visitor wearing a face mask takes a close look at an artwork "Untitled, 2019" created by American visual artist Helen Pashgian at Art Basel in Hong Kong Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Art Basel, one of the world's most prestigious modern and contemporary art exhibitions, is returning to Hong Kong in its ninth edition. The prestige art fair is hosting 104 galleries from 23 countries and territories. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
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Art Basel will go ahead with its 50th event in Switzerland this September, complying with Covid-19 restrictions set by the Swiss government.

Fair directors sent an email to its VIPs on Thursday confirming the scheduled dates of September 20 to 26 are still in place.

Capacity has been capped at 20 per cent below that of previous years, and a day has been added to the VIP opening. The number of tickets for the public days of September 23 to 26 will be cut by one third.

Visitors will be allowed to attend only if they have been vaccinated or can present either a recent negative Covid-19 test or proof of sufficient antibodies after recovery from the disease.

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Switzerland has eased some coronavirus restrictions, allowing restaurants and bars to reopen and increasing the number of people permitted at public gatherings and private events.

Art Basel, typically held in June, cancelled its flagship fair last year and was expected to stage its next event in June 2021. In January, however, organisers postponed the dates to September.

The upcoming fair will be the first time it will return to Basel since the pandemic began. In May, a scaled-down Art Basel Hong Kong, with half the usual number of participating galleries, was held partially in person, with a hybrid format that included online viewing rooms, virtual walkthroughs and live broadcasts.

The Swiss event is set to follow this model, though it has not revealed if it has reduced the number of participating galleries. The exhibitor list will be announced in July.

Galleries have other ways to participate, however, particularly via digital initiatives, such as one in which dealers from around the world can attend by “hologram”.

Like the Hong Kong edition, Art Basel in Switzerland will host joint presentations, enabling two or more galleries to share a booth, and “satellite booths”, also known as “ghost booths”, which will showcase artworks from abroad but are staffed locally.

In the letter to VIPs, Art Basel said the Hong Kong fair had drawn in 30,000 visitors “despite extreme travel restrictions”, and deemed it a success.

Switzerland has reported a drop in Covid-19 infections and a rise in its inoculation rate to 60,000 to 90,000 injections per day. About 30 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.