Coronavirus Updates: Sotheby’s to Relocate Modern and Contemporary Art Sales Back to Hong Kong

COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe with more than 470,000 confirmed cases and over 21,000 deaths. Many countries have closed their borders and issued travel bans in an attempt to contain the outbreak. In light of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 virus outbreak, Sotheby’s has made the decision to relocate its Hong Kong Modern and Contemporary Art Sales back to Hong Kong in July. Travelling exhibitions in Hong Kong and Taipei will also be postponed. 

The related sale details are also updated on Sotheby’s website

Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia

Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, comments: “In reviewing our sale schedule, we have taken into consideration the advice from government and health authorities, the requirements of our clients, and logistical and operational feasibility. As the situation stabilizes in Asia, the relocation of these sales back to Hong Kong will provide the best possible sale context for our consignors and buyers.”

Sotheby’s Hong Kong spring sales were originally scheduled to be held in April. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the auction house’s revised plan announced on 24 February was to split the Hong Kong sales into two parts, relocating the Modern Art Evening Sale and Contemporary Art Evening & Day Sales to New York in April while keeping the sales of other art categories in Hong Kong but postponed to July.

Nonetheless, the situation worsened so quickly in the United States in less than a month. As of today, the US recorded over 68,000 confirmed cases with more than 20,000 cases in the New York state. Officials in 16 states have ordered residents to stay at home. Earlier this month, the CDC recommended a ban on all gatherings of 50 people or more.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo estimates that up to 80% of the state’s population of almost 20 million will be infected with the deadly virus at some point in time. He also stated that the coronavirus spread could last up to nine months or longer. Renowned art museums in New York are temporarily closed due to coronavirus whereas major art fairs such as Frieze and TEFAF are either cancelled or postponed. 

Given the ongoing uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak, Sotheby’s has updated the schedule to relocate the Modern Art Evening Sale and Contemporary Art Evening & Day Sales back to Hong Kong in the week of 5 July with the balance of the spring auction series.

Travelling exhibitions scheduled in Hong Kong (27 – 28 March) and Taipei (4 – 5 April) will also be postponed, with new dates to be announced in due course.

Sotheby’s said in the statement: “Sotheby’s will shortly be announcing additional sales initiatives to take place in Hong Kong from April – June across multiple channels designed to meet the market demand for transacting across collecting categories. Despite the current challenges, collectors continue to look for opportunities to buy and sell great art.”

As Sotheby’s spring sales are now postponed to July, the pressure is now on other leading auction houses including Christie’s and Phillips as their upcoming sales are scheduled to be held in May while the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down. The Hong Kong government is enforcing a compulsory 14-day quarantine for people arriving in Hong Kong from foreign countries and the regulation will last till mid-June. Will other auction houses reschedule their May auctions on the heels of Sotheby’s new arrangements?