The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, December 5, 2021

Art Basel cancels upcoming Basel show in September
kaufmann repetto, Andrew Kreps Gallery, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Andrea Bowers © Art Basel.

by Scott Reyburn

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Organizers of Art Basel, the centerpiece of the European art market calendar, have canceled the show in Basel, Switzerland, in September because of ongoing health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 50th anniversary edition of the event, featuring more than 250 international galleries, had originally been scheduled to take place in June, but had been postponed to Sept. 15-20.

The Swiss Federal Council had delayed its decision on whether the fair could go ahead until later this month. Uncertainty about the regulatory environment, together with concerns about the financial risks for exhibitors and partners, as well as “ongoing impediments to international travel,” had been additional factors in the decision to cancel, Art Basel said in a statement.

“We are acutely aware that our galleries are facing unprecedented challenges and economic difficulties, and we had fervently hoped to support the art market’s recovery with a successful fair in September,” said Marc Spiegler, global director of Art Basel. “Unfortunately, the uncertainties that we face remain too high.”

This is another major blow to Art Basel’s beleaguered Swiss parent company, MCH Group. Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Baselworld watch fair — traditionally the organizer’s biggest moneymaking event — were canceled last month.

On April 27, Art Basel wrote to concerned exhibitors saying that if the Swiss fair were canceled it would refund prepaid fees. Organizers also said that 25% of booth fees retained after the cancellation of the Hong Kong fair could be rolled over into fees for subsequent Art Basel fairs.

However, Claes Nordenhake, an Art Basel participant based in Berlin and Stockholm, and other dealers coordinated a letter of response from participating galleries, sent on May 30, that urged organizers to reconsider holding the fair. “Art Basel is the most important and powerful art fair in the world but even in the best possible scenario, an edition held this year would be a mere shadow of its established stature and imperil its reputation,” the letter said. Signed by more than 50 dealers, it concluded: “We believe that risks are simply too great and that regrettably 2020 is a lost year.”

As was the case with Art Basel Hong Kong, collectors will now be able to view the fair online. A virtual version of the fair will go live from June 19-26, with preview days from June 17-19.

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