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Quarantine-free travel between the two cities is scheduled to start from 26 May, three days after Art Basel in Hong Kong.

Exhibition view of Mohammad Din Mohammad: The Mistaken Ancestor at Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965 (2021). Courtesy the artist and National Gallery of Singapore.

Singapore and Hong Kong plan to open an Air Travel Bubble (ATB) on 26 May, allowing up to 200 people per day to travel each way without having to quarantine. A recent outbreak of Covid-19 cases in Singapore threatens to burst the bubble before it even takes shape.

Even if the ATB is implemented, it will arrive just days too late for gallery staff and collectors in Singapore who hoped to attend Art Basel in Hong Kong from 19-23 May.

'We would love to be there in person to catch up with so many of our friends, along with the added bonus of being able to oversee the set-up,' said Joseph Kong, sales associate at Gajah Gallery, which has locations in Singapore and Yogyakarta.

'Whilst financially we face fewer costs due to the lack of travel and shipping for art fairs, there is a growing fatigue with online offerings and an excitement to return to the physical spaces,' he said.

Priya Mudgal, Senior Director of Global Sales at Pearl Lam Galleries—with locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Shanghai—said travel restrictions hurt the gallery's visitor numbers in 2020, but 'our sales strategies have evolved and new ways of doing business have emerged.'

At the same time, she said, 'art connoisseurs, collectors, and art lovers realise the importance of visiting a physical gallery space and enjoying art at a very personal level, which is missing in the virtual world.'

Exhibition view of Chng Seok Tin: Drawn Through a Press at Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965 (2021). Courtesy the artist and National Gallery of Singapore.

Art Basel in Hong Kong has tried hard to accommodate both in-person and virtual visitors this year.

Galleries whose staff are unable to travel to Hong Kong have the option of showing at physical booths staffed by local representatives appointed by Art Basel.

'This new concept was conceived to further support galleries at a time of restricted international travel into Hong Kong,' said a spokesperson for Art Basel.

Gajah gallery will show at Art Basel in Hong Kong via one of these 'satellite booths'.

Art Basel is also launching the digital initiative Art Basel Live, which they describe as key to developing 'a hybrid format that best serves the ever-evolving gallery ecosystem, with engaging digital experiences capable of reaching new and existing audiences worldwide.'

Exhibitions the travel bubble would allow art fans to attend include Para Site's Curtain in Hong Kong through 25 July, and Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965 at the National Gallery Singapore until 22 August. —[O]

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