As Switzerland Eases Covid Restrictions, Art Basel Says September Fair Will Go Forward

In a letter sent to its VIPs, Art Basel said this week that it will move forward with the Swiss iteration of its marquee fair, which is scheduled to run September 20–26—with certain restrictions in place. Artnet News first reported the news.

The fair detailed several precautions it will take for the September edition. As with Frieze New York and Art Basel Hong Kong, both of which took place this past May, visitors must provide proof of full vaccination or a recent Covid-19 negative test in order to attend Art Basel.

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The fair will also reduce its capacity by 20 percent of its usual attendance, and it will sell a third fewer tickets for its public days. Its outdoor Unlimited section will now open a day earlier than usual, on Monday, September 20, and its VIP-only days for the main fair will run from Tuesday, September 21, to Thursday, September 23.

“While the situation surrounding the ongoing pandemic remains vastly different from region to region, the last month in Europe was marked by accelerating vaccination programs and loosening restrictions,” the fair’s letter reads.

Art Basel said in its letter that it had seen success in mounting its Hong Kong fair last month, “despite extreme travel restrictions.” That fair drew 30,000 visitors over its five days and featured 104 exhibitors, about half as many as is typical.

[Strong sales at Art Basel Hong Kong prove the strength of Asia’s art market.]

Art Basel will not release its exhibitor list until July, and it has not said if it will reduce the number of galleries. According to its website, galleries will have various options for participating, including “staging joint presentations, presenting satellite booths manned by Art Basel staff, and curating small exhibitions—or Wunderkammers—within another gallery’s stand.” As with the Hong Kong edition, Art Basel will also stage an accompanying online component of the fair. The fair’s next online edition, titled “OVR: Portals,” runs June 16–19.

The news comes as Switzerland announced that it would further ease its Covid-related restrictions. As of May 31, the federal government has allowed restaurants, bars, spas, and thermal baths to reopen. It has also upped the number of people allowed at private gatherings (30 indoor, 50 outdoor) and public events (100 indoor, 300 outdoor, both at half capacity for the venue). The U.S. State Department still currently lists Switzerland as a Level 4 – Do Not Travel destination. (These restrictions and recommendations are likely to change by September.)

On Friday, the Swiss government also announced that it will begin distributing “COVID-19 certificates,” according to a report by Reuters. Though the details of how the certificates will be distributed are still being finalized, the effort is clearly intended to allow for freer travel throughout Europe.

According to the New York Times’s coronavirus tracker database on June 4, Switzerland has distributed just over 4.8 million doses of the vaccine. About 36 percent of the Swiss population has received at least one dose, and 20 percent of its population is fully vaccinated. The country currently is reporting a daily average of 670 cases of Covid-19, a 48-percent decrease in its two-week average, with around 4 deaths each day.

Around the world, art fairs are approaching their plans for the rest of 2021 in different ways. Expo Chicago canceled its fall edition altogether, and TEFAF, which previously called off its New York editions for 2021, said it would also nix its main fair in Maastricht, the Netherlands. In New York, the Armory Show and Independent plan to move forward with their early September editions.


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