Coronavirus Cases Top 30,000: Christie's Postpones Spring Sales in Hong Kong and New York

The escalating coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 30,000 globally and claimed the lives of approximately 630 so far. Consequently, there is a huge impact on Hong Kong's Arts Month in March. The Value's sources confirmed that Christie's, the leading player in the international auctions scene, has decided to postpone both the "20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale" in Hong Kong and "Asian Art Week" in New York due to the widespread outbreak, coming on the heels of Art Basel and Art Central's announcements to call off their fairs in Hong Kong.

The escalating coronavirus outbreak has a huge impact on Hong Kong's Arts Month in March

The schedule changes in Christie's March Sales are as shown above

In Hong Kong, auction sales are mainly divided into two periods: Spring and Autumn. In recent years the two rival international auctioneers Christie's and Sotheby's made sure that their sales do not coincide with each other (for obvious reasons). Sotheby's Spring Sale generally occurs between the end of March and early April, while Christie's version will take place in May. Christie's had initially planned to host an additional "20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale" this year in Hong Kong on 19 March, in a clever attempt to attract Art Basel’s crowd.

Not much has been said so far about the artworks intended for sale. However if we take a closer look at Christie's webpage for the aforementioned sale, we will find that a snippet of KAWS' painting has been utilized as the profile picture. It can almost be said with certainty that the sale would also include artworks by revered Asian painters such as Zou Wou-ki. Christie's has now decided to postpone this new auction to May, merging it with their Spring Sale. The same goes for "Fine & Rare Wines" which was initially planned for 21 March.

As for Christie's Spring Sale during Asia Week New York in March, they have originally scheduled the auctions from 13 to 26 March, offering 11 dedicated sales in total (including online auctions). These are all to be postponed to June except for "South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art" sale.

Christie's had initially planned for an additional "20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale" this year in Hong Kong on 19 March to attract Art Basel’s audience

As of 6 February, there have been 24 Coronavirus cases confirmed in Hong Kong so far. The semi-autonomous territory has closed all but three border crossing points namely Hong Kong International Airport, the Shenzhen Bay joint checkpoint, and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. The situation in Hong Kong seems to be deteriorating by the day as supplies of surgical masks, alcohol-based hand sanitisers and even toilet papers continue to run low, and experts forecast that the peak of the outbreak has not yet been reached. It is understandable for Christie's to postpone Hong Kong's sale - but why New York's as well?

We believe this has to do with stepped up worldwide immigration restrictions over coronavirus. Countries including Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Vietnam etc. are barring foreign nationals who have recently traveled to China especially Hubei province within the past 14 days, restricting their respective airlines to conduct flights to the Greater China region, temporarily restricting visa approvals for tourists from the Greater China region etc.

The United States has issued a “Level 4” travel advisory for China, its highest level of caution, over the rapidly spreading outbreak. There are now 12 confirmed cases in the United States and it is expected that Washington will continue to escalate its measures.

Christie's has decided to postpone most of its Asian Art Week auctions in New York to June

The Spring and Autumn sales in New York both feature Asia Week New York, normally held in March and September respectively. Top-tier Asian art specialists and major auction houses like Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonham's will offer their dedicated auctions during this celebrated period. Now that Christie's has postponed its Spring Sale to June, they have in effect halved the break between their two Sales from six months down to three. It will certainly be a challenge for the auction house to host two auctions in brief succession, testing the art market's appetite and demand.

Will other auction houses follow suit now that Christie's has postponed its Spring Sale? The Value will surely keep our readers posted.