With the Fate of the Fair in Question as the Virus Overwhelms Florida, Art Basel Miami Beach Just Gave Dealers More Time to Commit

The fair says it is "deeply committed" to holding the event in December "if at all feasible."

The Miami Beach Convention Center. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

Art Basel’s senior leadership this week sent a letter to exhibitors saying they were “deeply committed” to hosting the annual Miami Beach event in December “if at all feasible,” while giving dealers more time to decide whether or not to commit to the fair.

To offer exhibitors more flexibility, Art Basel has rescinded its August 1 cancellation deadline, allowing dealers to withdraw from the event by that time without having to fork over 75 percent of their booth fees. The October 1 deadline, after which any committed dealers who do not participate will have to pay 100 percent of their fees, remains in place.

Art Basel is also closely monitoring the situation at the Miami Beach Convention Center, where the fair takes place. The arena, which was recently remodeled, is now serving as a temporary hospital and coronavirus testing site as cases skyrocket in Florida. The state health department recently extended its lease on the space through September 6, with an option to extend for another 30 days.

Asked if Art Basel organizers have fielded concerns about the use of the building as a medical center, a spokesperson told Artnet News: “We understand that this is a very dynamic situation, and we are in close contact with the [convention center], which has created a task force that is developing plans, policies, and procedures regarding the venue in response to the pandemic.”

The letter’s signatories—fair director Noah Horowitz; head of business and management for the Americas Maureen Bruckmayr, and regional head of gallery relations for the Americas Dunja Gottweis—promised that updates to the fair’s health and safety procedures will be communicated by early September at the latest.

Meanwhile, booth sketches and acceptance decisions for the Meridians and Kabinett sectors will be released in mid-September at the latest.

“As we previously communicated, if we are forced to cancel the fair due to the implications of COVID-19, we will fully refund any booth fees already paid,” the letter states.

In the bigger picture, there is still considerable uncertainty about how Art Basel’s parent company, the MCH Group, will handle its premier events in years to come.

Having been forced to cancel the in-person Hong Kong and Basel editions of Art Basel in March and June, the company then saw the defections of major watch brands from its flailing Baselworld fair, which has been shelved for 2020 and 2021.

Recent reports say media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is considering making a major investment in MCH Group.

In a statement released this morning, the company said it was “considering a capital increase involving new investors” and was in negotiations with Lupa Systems LLC, a holding company formed in 2019 by James Mudroch, Rupert Murdoch’s son.

The company added: “The negotiations have not yet been concluded. The MCH Group will provide information as soon as this is the case. Until then, it will not be providing any further information in this respect.”

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