After several days of good news for Art Basel, the fair ended the week on a solemn note when it announced it would delay its Hong Kong fair from March to May, citing “the ongoing impact of the pandemic situation in Hong Kong,” according to a release. When the fair had announced the exhibitor list for the 2022 edition earlier this year, it confirmed that it had secured May dates as a contingency in case a delay were needed.
With 137 galleries from 28 countries, including 82 galleries participating via satellite booths, Art Basel Hong Kong will now take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre May 27–29, with preview days on May 25–26. “By taking this decision early, our goal is to ensure that we will be able to welcome the broadest possible community of art supporters and members of the public at HKCEC, in addition to the international audience that will be joining us virtually, while protecting the health and safety of everyone concerned,” Art Basel said.
Hong Kong has among the strictest Covid protocols anywhere in the world. Last year, the city instituted a 21-day quarantine period for anyone coming from abroad, but on Thursday, the city reduced that period to 14 days, with recent travelers required to self-monitor for the next 7 days but allowed outdoors, beginning on February 5. International flights from eight countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Australia, are still banned through at least February 18.
On Thursday, Hong Kong reported the highest-ever daily case load since the pandemic began. There were 164 new cases in the city, with 48 coming from abroad and 116 from local transmission, according to the South China Morning Post. As with mainland China, where the 2022 Winter Olympics will open in Beijing next month, Hong Kong is adhering to a “zero-Covid” policy. Around 64 percent of Hong Kong residents have been fully vaccinated, while 71 percent have received at least one dose; 12 percent have received a third dose, according to the New York Times’s coronavirus database.
This week, Art Basel and its parent company, MCH Group, made two major announcements. First, MCH Group announced it had taken a minority stake in the ART SG fair in Singapore that will open next January, a sign of the rising strength of the art market throughout Asia. Days later, it revealed that it had ousted the Parisian fair FIAC from its longtime home at the Grand Palais and would launch a new modern and contemporary art fair in the French capital this October.
Elsewhere in the world, art fairs have continued apace. In December, Art Basel Miami Beach staged a successful edition, and last week so too did the FOG Art + Design fair in San Francisco. Next month, Zona Maco in Mexico City and Frieze Los Angeles both plan to go ahead with their planned 2022 editions.
In a statement, Art Basel’s Asia director Adeline Ooi said, “Given the current government guidelines in Hong Kong, it has become clear that moving the fair to May is the right decision. We had anticipated this potential scenario in our planning process, and very much look forward to hosting gallerists, collectors, and art lovers at the HKCEC at that time.”