Swiss Art Basel fair postponed to September

The rumor had been going up for several weeks. Unsurprisingly, the news fell on Thursday, early afternoon: Art Basel, the largest Swiss fair of modern and contemporary art is postponed, due to the global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was to open to the public (on June 16 for VIPs) from June 18 to 21. It will be held from September 17 to 20, next.

This decision was made in close consultation with a wide range of gallery owners, collectors, partners and external experts, with the aim of protecting the health and safety of the community, and ensuring that the fair is attended by the largest number of collectors, curators and professionals in the Art Basel worldwide network ” announced the press release.

“A very complex decision to make”

And its director Marc Spiegler added: “We thank our galleries for the support and understanding of our very complex decision to postpone the fair. We hope the situation improves quickly, and we will work closely with our exhibitors for its success in September. The health and safety of our exhibitors, partners, guests and teams remains our priority, and we will adapt all our planning to the current situation

Art Basel cannot live without its public and its American galleries. These weigh heavily in number but also financially in this large art supermarket. And it is they who bring some of the wealthiest customers. A windfall impossible to dismiss and which counted in this decision to postpone. Especially since it will be impossible for galleries to send their works to Switzerland in time with the transport freeze. The worst of the pandemic is coming across the Atlantic, a few weeks behind Europe.

Play the card of rebirth

Is betting on the start of the school year appropriate? There is a great risk of a telescoping due to a calendar from September to October which is far too busy, between the Biennale Paris at the Grand Palais, Frieze London, Tefaf New York and the Fiac at the Grand Palais. Faced with such an influx of offers in two months, not everyone will find their account. Collectors will have to choose between events and inevitably calculate their expenses.

ABB19, Galleries, Andrew Kreps Gallerry, PR

In this context, Paris, in the center of Europe, must play the card of the market renaissance from June, with the possibility that Art Paris, planned for the end of May, will be shifted by security to June, at the same time that the weekend gallery ” explains Parisian Nathalie Obadia. “For small and medium-sized galleries, it is essential to make cash before the holidays despite government assistance. We will surely stay open part of the summer“, She adds.

“All the fairs have been canceled or postponed like Art Brussels from 25 to 28 June. We are currently for Art Paris on the niche from May 28 to 31, at the same time as the drawing room and Drawing Now. There was no question of positioning yourself at the same time as Art Basel in June. But with its postponement to September, there is now an opportunity to seize during this period“Says Guillaume Piens, director of Art Paris.

“The gradual release of containment will inevitably involve travel restrictions preventing collectors from coming so early in May as well as limitation of gauges at the Grand Palais” add the latter. If the month of June seems like a card to play for the capital, it is to be hoped that the public will have this thirst for culture after being locked up for so many weeks.


Art Basel Hong Kong, a record online edition

Opt for a modern and contemporary art fair only online. News obliges with the Covid-19 epidemic, it was a first for Art Basel Hong Kong. Two opening days reserved for VIPs, to give priority to real buyers, followed by an opening for all. The novelty of the event clearly attracted many Internet users. But impossible to verify the nature of these.

After closing on Wednesday March 25, the Art Basel Hong Kong organization announces 250,000 unique visitors in seven fair days. This is an unexpected result, three times more than the number of physical visitors (more than 88,000 admissions in 2019), in a country where the Chinese have a reputation for crowding in salons.

But this promising figure is to be taken with caution, as there is a world between those who click to see and those who click to buy. Still, the acquisitions have to materialize. We know that in times of crisis, customers discuss prices and delay paying, or even give up along the way if their bank account melts like snow in the sun. And nobody knows, with the paralysis of transport, by boat or cargo, when the works purchased will arrive safely.

Art Basel Hong Kong having been canceled, the 235 galleries had no other choice than this virtual edition, compensating for a shortfall in full reimbursement of their stand (only 75%). But the impact of this virtual visit in “Viewing rooms” limited to 10 works was not the same for everyone. Between the dithyrambic results of some, and those very mixed, even non-existent of others, who can we believe?

“There are works of the first category that we ultimately did not want to put for this edition, in order to sell them before, through our channels, before the catastrophe of containment arrives, explains a Parisian gallery owner.In terms of date, Art Basel Hong Kong was held the worst week. Do you really believe that, at the peak of the pandemic peak, our customers want to decide in one click? The acquisition remains a desire purchase. He follows a training phenomenon. Business goes well when the rest follows. It’s the same with other luxury and fashion fields that suddenly become useless, superficial, since we are at home. “

Over 2,000 works have been presented on the online platform, “All with an exact price or a price range ”, explains the organization of the fair. But not all of them put them on or removed them in order to leave room for negotiation. “The overall value of the works presented has been estimated at more than 270 million dollars ”, we are still told. Everyone knows that the art market is not a transparent field, except that of the auction. If customers choose private sale even in big houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Phillip’s, it’s good that they want total discretion.

Art Basel World Director Marc Spiegler points out that for many small and medium-sized galleries, the “platform offered the first opportunity to explore the approach of an online viewing room and to connect in this way with potential new customers from around the world, which is especially important today. ”. But this new tool he talks about (to be improved by the way!) Is already used via social networks. And we know that for first-time artists, it is difficult to show yourself online when you are not known.

It is therefore above all the large galleries that are the winners of this operation. They have every interest in communicating as much as possible to continue to be visible by the market. Especially since the rumor circulates insistently on the postponement of Art Basel in Basel, scheduled for June, the biggest fair in the field. “No American will come to Europe before September and all the big merchants will refocus on their market in the United States”, explains a European gallery. So, it will be a significant shortfall and will have to hold financially until the start of the school year.

For Art Basel Hong Kong 2020, some brands are announcing results that are hard to believe: up to $ 2.6 million for a Marlène Dumas Chez David Zwirner. And dozens of other 300,000 dollars sold at Hauser & Wirth or Gagosian, two heavyweights of the international market. But nothing tells us that these figures are true, since we will never have access to the names of buyers. Or that the pieces were not sold before the fair. Transactions are carried out in secret and often reach us through these indiscretions which the market loves …