Three More Galleries Have Pulled Out of Art Basel Hong Kong Despite the Fair’s Many Perks for Dealers Who Stick It Out

The fair offered special discounts to participating galleries in an effort to assuage fears over the ongoing conflict in the city.

Hong Kong. Photo: courtesy of Art Basel.

Three more galleries have withdrawn from this year’s edition of Art Basel Hong Kong amid ongoing pro-democracy protests in the city.

Luxembourg & Dayan of New York and London, Tyler Rollins Fine Art of New York, and SCAI The Bathhouse from Tokyo have all pulled out of the fair, an Art Basel representative confirmed. The defections come just two months before the event is scheduled to open on March 19 and after the fair offered dealers extra time to capitalize on a reduced withdrawal fee, allowing them to pay 75 percent of the booth cost rather than the full amount. (The news was first reported by the Financial Times; the three galleries have not yet responded to Artnet News’s request for comment.)

The trio joins two unnamed galleries that were accepted to the 2020 fair before defecting last fall. Other businesses, including Stuart Shave/Modern Art, Galerie Karsten Greve, and Goodman Gallery, chose not to return to the expo despite participating previously. 

The withdrawal offer was one of many concessions and inducements the show’s organizers have made to participating dealers amid the tumultuous political climate. Fifteen percent of exhibitors took advantage of an offer to reduce the size of their booths—and thus, the commensurate fee. Other perks include special orders for booths, discounted hotel rooms, a battalion of art handlers—and even discounts at a few restaurants in town.

Also stoking fears was an article published in the Art Newspaper last month, which reported that dealers were having difficulty securing insurance coverage for shipped artworks. ABHK organizers are working with a local insurance broker to offer coverage, albeit at 20 times the normal rate.

Art Basel in Hong Kong atmosphere, 2014.

Considering the wave of dramatic press and uncertainty, however, participation numbers remain strong. The withdrawals constitute less than two percent of ABHK’s total lineup. The fair still boasts 241 participating galleries. 

“Art Basel Hong Kong remains the essential hub for the Asian collecting community,” a spokesperson for David Zwirner, who has maintained public enthusiasm for the event, said. “We are committed to the fair, and we look forward to returning for our eighth year with a presentation of works by Lisa Yuskavage as planned.”

The last major wave of Hong Kong protests took place on January 1, when a serene New Year’s Day march ended with demonstrators and police clashing in the streets, ending weeks of relative calm. 

Should the fair be forced to close due to ongoing civil tension in Hong Kong, organizers have committed to refunding 75 percent of galleries’ fees. As of now, there is no indication that this will be the case, an Art Basel spokesperson said, noting that preparation for the fair has been business as usual. 

“We have recently sent out VIP invitations and are pleased to confirm that VIP registration numbers are currently consistent with previous years and are especially strong from Asia, in particular,” the representative said. Still, word has been circulating that galleries will host fewer parties and events during the fair to avoid the appearance of the art world sipping champagne while activists fight for freedom. 

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