Amid mounting anxiety over the spread of COVID-19, a New York dealer asked Vietnamese artist An Nguyen not to participate in this year’s London edition of the Affordable Art Fair for fears that their appearance would discourage visitors from attending.
“The coronavirus is causing much anxiety everywhere, and fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus,” dealer Raquelle Azran reportedly e-mailed Nguyen. “Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space.”
Azran runs Vietnamese Contemporary Fine Art in New York City’s Upper East Side. Hers was among the more than 100 galleries slated to exhibit in the fair, opening March 12 at London’s Battersea Park, but will no longer be participating.
Affordable Art Fair released a statement dissociating itself from the incident. “We are aware of a tweet showing a screen grab of an email from an exhibiting gallery requesting an artist not to attend our Fair next week. The message was not sent by the Affordable Art Fair and was a communication sent by a gallery to one of their artists,” reads the statement. “We were not aware of this email communication or its contents and we do not condone the views of implications within the message.”
Azran told Artnet News, “I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by my actions. They were insensitive and in hindsight reflected poor judgement for me to cancel An Nguyen joining my stand as an assistant.”