In response to the increasingly threatening coronavirus epidemic, Sotheby’s announced today that it will move its major spring Hong Kong auctions to New York.

The auction house’s Modern art evening sale and its contemporary art evening and day sales, originally set to take place between April 3 and 8 during Hong Kong art week, will be relocated to Sotheby’s New York on April 16. The remaining events in the series, including sales of jewelry, watches, wine, and Asian art, will be postponed to the week of July 6 in Hong Kong.

The decision was made “after careful consideration and reflection on nearly 50 years of working with our clients in Asia,” said Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, in a statement.

“April in New York represents the best possible venue and timing for our consignors of Modern and contemporary art,” he added. “We have scheduled these sales at times that will make it easy for our clients in Asia to participate and our global team stands ready to activate the international market for the great works of art we have assembled.”

David Hockney’s 30 Sunflowers (1996), a large square canvas estimated at roughly $10 million, tops the list of highlights for the company’s contemporary evening sale. Meanwhile, a 1950 painting by Chinese-French artist Sanyu, which depicts four nude female figures, leads the modern art evening sale. A similar work by the artist, who is known as the “Chinese Matisse,” sold for $38.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong modern art evening auction last November. 

David Hockney, <i>30 Sunflowers</i> (1996). Courtesy of Sotheby's Hong Kong.

David Hockney, 30 Sunflowers (1996). Courtesy of Sotheby’s Hong Kong.

With today’s announcement, Sotheby’s sales join a growing list of global art events in Hong Kong to be postponed, relocated, or altogether canceled as alarming coronavirus news continues to spread. After rampant speculation, Art Basel Hong Kong canceled its March 2020 edition. A day later, Art Central, a fair that typically runs concurrent to Art Basel Hong Kong, also canceled this year’s edition. 

Christie’s announced the postponement of its 20th century and contemporary art evening sale in Hong Kong from March to May. Bonhams similarly announced that its March sales in Hong Kong would be rescheduled, though new dates have not yet been set. The majority of sales set for New York’s Asian Art Week, including those planned by Christie’s, Phillips, and Bonhams, have all been moved to June.

Countries around the world are imposing strict travel restrictions to stop the deadly virus, which now has 70,000 confirmed cases in mainland China and another 8,000 throughout Asia and Europe. Flights to and from China have been drastically limited, rendering the kind of logistics needed to operate a fair or auction all but impossible. 

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