Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the coronavirus. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubai province in China and this unique virus has all but taken the area hostage.
People are told to stay indoors, have been barred from traveling in and out of the country, and its effect on China’s economy is now being felt in all sectors, including art. Here, we have an overview of the coronavirus outbreak and how it’s affecting Chinese artists and their work.
What restrictions are in place due to the coronavirus?
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, government officials have been aiming to control the situation by issuing travel bans and quarantines.
Most countries are banning people from boarding outbound flights from mainland China and there are various quarantine requirements if you were in China during the weeks before the outbreak occurred.
Even cruise ships off the coast of China have been quarantined in the waters if the coronavirus has been diagnosed onboard. It was after weeks stuck on the ships that passengers were finally allowed to complete their quarantined status onshore. But even then, passengers were only released in small numbers.
These measures show just how serious this virus is being taken and the lengths international governments are willing to go to prevent a more extensive outbreak.
This affects the art world because now that Chinese travel is at a stand-still, Chinese artists aren’t able to share their work internationally. Not to mention, China’s economy is severely impacted by the coronavirus and many businesses and public institutions are closed indefinitely.
As of February 13, there have been 59,810 cases of the coronavirus in China and 1,367 deaths. However, 6,002 cases have recovered from the virus meaning its fatality rate is only 2%.
How is art being affected by coronavirus?
Most museums and art organizations are publicly run. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the government is in a position to make sure these institutions remain closed for constant sanitation and to prevent the virus from spreading even further.
But private businesses are also doing their best to keep their employees and customers safe by closing their doors unless absolutely necessary.
Not to mention the international governments that are working to keep their citizens safe from the coronavirus. When performance artists like dancers, musicians, and visual artists are unable to travel, they’re also unable to share their art with the masses.
So, let’s start there.
Starting on February 1st, Australia banned the entry of travelers from mainland China, with the exception of Aussie citizens. This meant that Australia refused the entry of two Chinese artists from Shanghai who were scheduled to perform their piece called What is Chinese as part of the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts in Melbourne.
Hong Kong, whose government has done its best to avoid a full-on travel ban with mainland China has also recently issued a travel restriction which states that travelers from mainland China are to be on a 14-day home quarantine.
This quarantine is almost as detrimental to the local economy as a complete travel ban would be. As a result, Hong Kong’s Art Basel has been officially canceled for 2020 and surrounding countries in the Asia-Pacific region are sure to follow suit.
Domestically, the art world in mainland China is indefinitely on hold as well thanks to the coronavirus.
Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Arts extended its Lunar New Year holiday closure and won’t be reopening for all of February and potentially into March. A statement from the organization said they are taking their cues from the local government in order to protect their artists and patrons and that they won’t be reopening until they get the all-clear from the appropriate sources.
Three major shows presented by UCCA are now being postponed due to the coronavirus: Immaterial/Re-material and a Yan Xing exhibition which were set to take place in Beijing from February 6 to May 5 as well as Resistance of the Sleepers which was set to take place at the Dune location on March 8.
Gallery Weekend Beijing which was supposed to happen from March 13 to 20 has also been postponed and announcements on when it is set to continue are planned for March 15.
New museums that were planning to open in China in 2020 are also feeling the effects of the coronavirus. The He Art Museum in Foshan and the X Museum in Beijing have both decided to delay their openings.
In 2018, China was the third-largest art market in the world after the US and UK markets, accounting for 19% of the money spent on art globally. Everything from Hollywood movie premieres to international orchestra performances throughout China has been affected by the coronavirus.
Overall, it makes sense that art exhibitions and museum events are probably the last things on anybody’s mind in China at this time. Hopefully, the coronavirus will be under control soon and China’s booming art market will get back on its feet by 2021.
Most likely, some incredible artwork will start to come out of this chaotic period but for now, all we can do is stay as healthy as we can and support China through this stressful time.