As the Unrest in Hong Kong Intensifies, Dealers Grapple With the Pros and Cons of Attending Art Basel’s Fair in the City


“Two galleries have withdrawn from the Art Basel Hong Kong fair amid ongoing protests in the Asian city,...

In London last week, Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director, was spotted making the rounds at Frieze on Thursday, encouraging exhibitors to hold off making a decision about whether to participate or withdraw. Multiple dealers told artnet News that the fair’s organizers had reached out to them—either in person, over e-mail, or by phone—to discuss the state of affairs in recent weeks.


Opinions differ on which is the greater risk: participating in the fair or sitting it out.


Dealers say they anticipate that far fewer collectors from mainland China will attend out of fear of discrimination or reprisal, reducing the buying power of the collector base significantly.


At a time when profit margins for small and midsize dealers remain thin, the stakes are high: A successful fair can be the difference between a profitable year and a bad one. One gallerist said the hefty cost of travel, booth fees, and shipping, combined with the uncertainty of whether top clients would attend, has made the Hong Kong fair increasingly unappealing. 


But other galleries are loath to pull out because they do not want to lose their spot in the future; Hong Kong remains an important market and gateway to the rest of Asia.”


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January 16, 2020

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