Art Basel Hong Kong Shows the Way Online

Antony Gormley, Breathing Room II, 2010. Courtesy Galleria Continua

Over 250,000 visited Art Basel Hong Kong’s digital-only edition, mounted in response to the closure of the bricks-and-mortar show due to the coronavirus emergency.

The challenges and uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that the art world has had to find ways to adjust to new realities. While all significant art exhibitions and institutions have shut up shop, online exhibitions and auction are proving a viable alternative.

Art Basel brought forward the launch of its planned Online Viewing Rooms to support the galleries and artists intending to exhibit at Art Basel Hong Kong 2020. Over 200 exhibitors took part, showing more than 2,000 works, with prices ranging from US$750 to US$3,000,000, a total value of approximately US$270m  – “Almost undoubtedly […] the priciest collection of works ever offered through a single online portal,’ wrote Tim Schneider in Artnet News.


Fred Scholle, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Galerie du Monde said “‘[The Online Viewing Rooms project] has been very helpful in bringing the works that we were to show at Art Basel Hong Kong to the attention of a worldwide audience,’ and added that Art Basel’s digital initiative was particularly appreciated ‘during this difficult time, when so many people are in self-quarantine and not able to get out to visit galleries.’

Left: David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011, 17 May, 2011. Right: The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011 (twenty eleven) – 30 May, 2011. Courtesy Annely Juda Fine Art, London.

The Art Basel virtual exhibition took advantage of being unconstrained by the limitations of a traditional fair, providing a platform for novel curatorial concepts and large-scale works, including Ota Fine Arts offering an iteration of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, and Galleria Continua presenting Antony Gormley’s hologram-like drawing Breathing Room II.

See also: ICA, Phillips and Christie’s Announce Temporary Closures Due to Coronavirus

Gallerists hosted virtual tours using video-conferencing systems, while presentations included works by LA-based painter Matt Paweski at Park View/Paul Soto, sculptures by Cécile B. Evans at Galerie Emanuel Layr, Japanese printmaker Toshinobu Onosato by Watanuki Ltd, and Annely Juda Fine Art showing a selection of David Hockney’s iPad drawings, accompanied by a message from the artist, ‘Do remember they can’t cancel spring.’

Liu Shiyuan, Floating Event No.2, 2019. Courtesy White Space Beijing.

Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers of Sprüth Magers said the Online Viewing Rooms have been an “Engaging and eye-opening tool for communication and collaboration”, adding “Art Basel has paved the way for what’s to come”.

The Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms are now closed, but collectors can still contact galleries via details on individual gallery pages.

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