Following China’s decision to close its state museums last week, Hong Kong has shuttered its public art institutions indefinitely as it works to control the spread of the coronavirus. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, will also limit travel between Hong Kong and China by air, train, and ferry.
The virus has already killed over 100 people, and as of Tuesday there were 4,600 confirmed cases on mainland China. According to the New York Times, there are 8 cases of coronavirus in Hong Kong, where political protests are continuing apace. There are 70 confirmed cases outside of China, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States United States, where five cases have been identified, is upping screenings for the virus at airports.
The National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the Guangdong Art Museum in Guangzhou, and the Union Art Museum in Wuhan were among those that shuttered on Tuesday. Other attractions, such as the Great Wall and Disneyland’s Shanghai and Hong Kong locations, were also closed. In accordance with an extended New Year holiday, schools across China and Hong Kong will remain closed until February 17, and businesses will be closed through February 9.
These announcements come less than two months before Art Basel Hong Kong is set to open, on March 19. Amid pro-democracy protests, the fair has already offered galleries discounted withdrawal fees, refunds of 75 percent of a booth’s costs in the case of cancellation, and other discounts. Last week, however, 24 galleries demanded further concessions, with a 50 percent reduction on booth fees among them.
A spokesperson for Art Basel said in a statement that it is “taking the recent outbreak and spread of the new coronavirus extremely seriously. We are closely monitoring the developments and recommendations issued by the World Health Organization and national governments, as well as consulting directly with relevant experts. We will provide updates on the implications for our Hong Kong show as soon as possible.”