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Coronavirus: art fair cancellation signals extent of disruption

The potential long-term impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on the international events calendar was underlined today after organisers cancelled a huge art fair in Hong Kong.

Art Basel, Asia’s largest annual art fair, was called off due to the outbreak and spread of the virus, even though the meeting was not due to take place until late next month.

The event was scheduled to take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 19-21 March. Last year the fair attracted almost 90,000 visitors from over 70 countries.

Collector Michael Xufu Huang was reported by CNN as saying: “I could see (the decision) coming. Even if the virus were to be contained by March, there’s so much organisation that goes into planning beforehand – shipping, traveling. And with travel restrictions it would be impossible for people in the mainland to go.”

Marc Spiegler, Art Basel global director, said: “The decision to cancel Art Basel Hong Kong was an extremely difficult one for us. We explored every other possible option before doing so. Unfortunately, the sudden outbreak and rapid spread of the novel coronavirus radically changed the situation.”

Meanwhile the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) has written to its 86 Chinese members to show solidarity and support for their predicament.

The letter signed by ICCA president James Rees and CEO Senthil Gopinath, on behalf of the board of directors, says: “We are very concerned for the interest, well-being and safety of you and your family members in China. We extend our sympathies for the loss of many lives and difficult struggles disrupting your daily life.  We pray for you and everyone in China and hope everything can return to normal soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with the relatives of the victims and to all those affected by this epidemic.”

It goes on to praise venue members, namely the Wuhan International Convention and Exhibition Center and China Optics Valley Convention & Exhibition Center, which have been turned into temporary hospitals.

“We highly commend this exemplary action in providing transition assistance to the affected community. We firmly believe that you are strong and unified to overcome this difficult time. We know the strengths and virtues of the people in China, and we are confident in your strength and perseverance.”

ICCA has six members based in Wuhan. They are:

  1. China Optics Valley Convention & Exhibition Center
  2. Eurasia International Convention Hotel
  3. RIMS Expo Corp. Ltd.
  4. Wuhan International Convention & Exhibition Center
  5. Wuhan Rayte Exhibition Culture Co., Ltd.
  6. Wuhan Shihedao Network Technology Co., Ltd.