Art Basel addresses growing speculation around September fair

Art Basel’s global director, Marc Spiegler, has written a letter to exhibitors addressing their concern about the fair’s new rules due to Covid-19 restrictions. His reassurances follow calls to cancel the already-postponed fair in Basel, Switzerland.

In 2020, Art Basel was forced to go online for the first time as the pandemic halted the art world in its tracks. This year’s long-awaited fair, which was postposed until September, will be an in-person event with optional participation in the online viewing room. Spiegler announced that Art Basel is “committed to hosting the fair under the current conditions because we firmly believe that we can do so safely.”

In the letter, Spiegler acknowledged that the European Union (EU) has recommended its member states to increase restrictions on US travellers, as well as the recommendation given by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit non-essential travel to Switzerland. But he noted that Switzerland is not a member of the EU and that “the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland is once again stable, following a spike in new infections in August as travellers returned from summer holidays.”

Art Basel will now offer concessions to exhibitors, including rolling over booth fees to 2022 if they cannot enter the country. Stands can be converted to ‘Ghost’ booths, where exhibitors can curate a small satellite exhibition within a standalone booth. The fair will provide “qualified personnel” to man the stands of any gallerists feeling uncomfortable about attending the fair.

Adeline Ooi, Director Asia for Art Basel’s Hong Kong show, said “we hope that this satellite option allows exhibitors to continue their onsite presence without physically attending the show.”

But there are some new restrictions too. As is the case with many indoor events, attendees must wear a mask at all times. Additionally, they must provide proof of being fully vaccinated, supply a recent negative test, or have proven antibodies to Covid-19.

In a controversial move, Art Basel is not recognising the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. London-based and AstraZeneca-jabbed art advisor Emily Tsingou said she was “appalled” by the restrictions, adding “we are there to work, not be judged. It will put a lot of people off.

Spiegler admitted that “the current conditions are not what we had hoped for when we rescheduled the fair to September. At the same time, many other galleries and collectors have reached out to stress the importance of doing the show under the circumstances“.

Art Basel’s 2021 edition will take place in Basel between the 24th and 26th September.

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