Art Basel creates 1.5 million franc fund for galleries in trouble


Art Basel has created a 1.5 million Swiss franc solidarity fund for galleries participating in the fair that are in financial trouble because of Covid.

Art Basel, the world’s leading contemporary art fair, held annually in Basel, Switzerland, has created a 1.5 million Swiss francs (nearly 1.4 million euros) solidarity fund for galleries in need. It is an investment to ensure business continuity for contemporary art dealers who, nearly two years after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, are complaining of work difficulties due in large part to the continuing emergency.

The news was announced in a letter that Art Basel’s director, Marc Spiegler, and the fair’s head ofbusiness and head of Europe, Andreas Bicker, sent to the kermesse’s 272 exhibitors this Monday: the purpose of the initiative is to mitigate the financial impact of galleries participating in the event. “We realistically expect that some galleries will do very well, some will reach break even point, and others may lose money,” the missive reads. “We hope you will agree with us that our main concern should be directed toward the latter, those who cannot cover their costs.” The fair has since made itself available to cover the out-of-pocket costs of galleries in need that would like to participate in the fair: for example, hotel and travel expenses should a gallery staff member test positive for Covid swabs during the fair (in Switzerland, if a traveler is found positive, he or she is forced to do ten days of quarantine: and since the cost of living in Basel is decidedly high, the costs to gallery owners could become unaffordable should one of their employees test positive). But that’s not all: in Switzerland, access to major events is precluded to those who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca (as it is not considered safe by Swiss health authorities against the Delta variant), which is why those who have been forced to vaccinate with this solution will perforce have to take continuous swabs during their stay in the country. And again, Art Basel will be footing the bill.

Exhibitors will have to decide whether or not to join the solidarity fund in the two weeks between the end of the fair and the date Art Basel bills for their participation. An independent auditor will manage the fund, the flows of which, moreover, will be totally confidential: the public will only know whether or not a gallery has joined if the merchant wants to declare it publicly.

“This is a proactive solution in the face of unforeseen developments,” Spiegler told Artnet magazine. “We could put together a complicated audit system and ask people to open their books, as some governments have done for various Covid aid programs, but we chose instead to let the galleries decide for themselves if they need to. I’d like to think that the increased collegiality and cooperation we’ve seen in the pandemic will lead to galleries being willing to pass those reductions on to their colleagues who need them.”

Art Basel creates 1.5 million franc fund for galleries in trouble
Art Basel creates 1.5 million franc fund for galleries in trouble


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