Earlier on Friday, the World Health Organization said that it was not sure when the coronavirus pandemic, which has sickened more than 137,000 worldwide, would end. Amid a growing sense of uncertainty that is affecting numerous industries globally, from severe plunges in stock markets to the closures of art museums, the world’s biggest fair said it is mulling postponing the event it has held annually for over half a century.
In a letter sent yesterday from the fair’s organizers, Art Basel said it would consider delaying its fair held in the Swiss city in June. No international regulations currently impact the fair, the organizers said, but in the interest of public health, a postponement was an option.
“We have been closely monitoring the spread of the virus since its early stages and continue to take the evolving situation extremely seriously,” the fair’s letter reads. “The health and safety of everyone concerned is our highest priority and all necessary measures will be taken to prevent their safety.”
Art Basel’s Swiss edition is currently slated to run June 18–21. If the fair is postponed, it would take place in the fall, serving as a sign that the effects of the coronavirus epidemic could potentially ripple out for months. An Art Basel representative said that no exhibitors had yet pulled out of the forthcoming fair.
“Art Basel has been closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus since its early stages and continues to take the evolving situation extremely seriously,” the fair said in a statement to ARTnews. “At this time, we are hoping to hold the fair as scheduled in June, while also exploring the possibility of postponing the fair until the fall, should it become necessary. We are in the process of consulting widely with our exhibitors, partners and other stakeholders on different scenarios. If we do decide to postpone the fair, we will communicate our decision as early as possible.”
Earlier this year, the coronavirus forced Art Basel to cancel another of its fairs, Art Basel Hong Kong, which was originally expected to be held this month. After the spread of the coronavirus in the city made holding that fair impossible, Art Basel canceled the event and replaced it with online viewing rooms set to kick off on March 20, with over 90 percent of the original exhibitor list on tap to participate.