A Dealer Barred a Curator From Her Art Fair Booth Because Asians Are ‘Seen as Carriers’ of Coronavirus. A Firestorm Erupted

Dealer Raquelle Azran told the curator that "Asians are being seen as carriers" of the coronavirus.

A shot of the crowd at the Affordable Art Fair, 2018. Courtesy of the Affordable Art Fair. Photo: Philip Reed.
A shot of the crowd at the Affordable Art Fair, 2018. Courtesy of the Affordable Art Fair. Photo: Philip Reed.

A New York art dealer has been dropped from the Affordable Art Fair’s forthcoming London edition after she disinvited an Asian curator from working at her booth out of concern that his presence would scare away fairgoers worried about the coronavirus.

“The coronavirus is causing much anxiety everywhere, and fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus,” dealer Raquelle Azran, who runs a Vietnamese contemporary art gallery, wrote in an email to curator An Nguyen. “Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space.”

With Azran’s message was shared on social media, it was widely condemned, with one comment calling it “completely audacious racism,” as reported by the Independent.

“We were not aware of this email communication or its contents and we do not condone the views or implications within the message,” said the fair in a statement. “We have now spoken to the gallery and they will no longer be exhibiting at the fair next week.”

Art dealer Raquelle Azran wrote this email to curator An Ngyuen to inform him that he was no longer welcome at her Affordable Art Fair booth in London.

Art dealer Raquelle Azran wrote this email to curator An Ngyuen to inform him that he was no longer welcome at her Affordable Art Fair booth in London.

“I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by my actions,” Azran said in a statement to Artnet News. “They were insensitive and in hindsight reflected poor judgement for me to cancel An Nguyen joining my stand as an assistant. I will no longer be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair next week. I shall continue, as I have over the past two decades, to encourage and exhibit Vietnamese artists and help them achieve the recognition they deserve.”

As of press time, Ngyuen had not responded to inquiries from Artnet News.

Some art fairs have been canceled outright in response to the coronavirus, including Art Basel Hong Kong and the London Book Fair, both of which were slated to open this month. The organizers of Art Dubai have postponed the commercial portion of their event, but will hold a slimmed-down program of talks during the originally scheduled March dates.

Affordable Art Fair Battersea Spring is set to run March 12–15.


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