As Protests Continue to Rock the City, a Hong Kong Art Fair Show Has Cancelled Its Spring 2020 Edition

Attendance at the Asia Contemporary Art Show fell by 40 percent at the fair's most recent show.

Mark Saunderson, the founder of the Asia Contemporary Art Show. Photo: K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images.
Mark Saunderson, the founder of the Asia Contemporary Art Show. Photo: K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post via Getty Images.

The Asia Contemporary Art Show in Hong Kong, one of the region’s oldest hotel fairs, is suspending its spring 2020 edition after sales and attendance at its October show were disrupted by ongoing protests in the city.

The 15th edition of the event, which ran from October 4 through October 7, was marred by vehement demonstrations against the government, which have turned increasingly violent.

In a statement, representatives for the event noted that sales were down across the board during the October edition, and that visitor attendance had dropped by 40 percent. They also cited the increasing effects of a slackening global economy.

“Regrettably, there seems little end in sight for the protests in Hong Kong with the knock-on effect on the broader economy accelerating,” fair director and co-founder Mark Saunderson said in a statement. “Our regular exhibitors are apprehensive.”

The cancelled edition was due to take place from March 13 through March 16, and would have ended just days before the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, Art Basel organizers told artnet News they were “monitoring” the situation, but that they intended to stage the fair as usual. When asked whether the cancelation of the Asia Contemporary Art Show had changed Art Basel’s calculus, a spokesperson said: “We do not have any plans to postpone or relocate our 2020 show. In fact, we are actively moving forward and will be announcing our exhibitor list later this month, as usual, and we remain confident that we will be able to deliver a show of the highest quality in 2020.”

Protests have rocked Hong Kong since late March, and have become increasingly confrontational as clashes between police and demonstrators have become more regular. On Sunday, police alleged that protestors had detonated a bomb, and there is growing concern that the violence will spur the government to postpone elections scheduled for November.

The Asia Contemporary Art Show is refunding all application deposits for the March 2020 edition or allowing exhibitors to transfer those fees to the fall 2020 event, which is still on the calendar for October.

In his statement, Saunderson also blamed the cancellation on other external factors.

“On the heels of a number of local galleries shutting up shop, the rest of 2019 is poised to be more challenging in some ways than the global financial crisis,” Saunderson said. “Then there’s the Trump factor, impacting buyer sentiment and confidence.”

According to Saunderson, “diehard” collectors still showed up to the October show, which included about 120 artist presented across 65 hotel rooms.

Instead of a March edition, the fair says it will now focus on building its online marketplace.


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