Vietnamese artist disinvited from UK art fair over racist ‘anxiety’ amid coronavirus

After taking place at the two biggest cities in Vietnam, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietjet's large-scale Cabin Crew Recruitment Day prepares to "land" in the capital of Japan - Tokyo. Photo: VietJet Air. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HANOI, Mar 7, 2020, VN Express. A visual artist of Vietnamese origin has had her role as an assistant in a U.K. art fair cancelled over Covid-19 fears. A screenshot of an email sent to An Nguyen, a Canadian Vietnamese living in Ottawa, has been going around on social media since Thursday, VN Express reported.

The email makes it clear that it is prejudice against Asians in the wake of the novel coronavirus crisis that is the reason that her work at the Affordable Art Fair Battersea in London held March 12-15 was canceled.

“I am very sorry to have to cancel your assistance at the fair next week. The coronavirus is causing much anxiety everywhere, and fairly or not, Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus.

“Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space,” the email read.

The screenshot, which was reportedly also posted on Nguyen’s Instagram account, has triggered outrage.

“Coronavirus is no excuse to be racist. Sorry to see you’re suffering this bullsh*t mate,” wrote one comment on Twitter.

Organizers of the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) have distanced themselves from the email, releasing a statement Thursday saying that it was sent by an exhibiting gallery to one of their artists.

“We were not aware of this email communication or its contents and we do not condone the views or implications within the message.

“We wish to reassure that these views are not held by the Affordable Art Fair and we have not instructed any exhibiting gallery to take such action,” the statement said.

Multiple reports have said that the email sender was Raquelle Azran, a curator specializing in Vietnamese Contemporary Fine Art.

In a statement released to the press, Azran has expressed her regret over the email, saying it was insensitive and that she apologized unreservedly for any offense caused by her actions.

She also said that she would no longer be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair next week, which was also confirmed by the AAF statement.

The U.K. Embassy in Vietnam has also released a public notice Friday, expressing regret over the incident.

“The views reported are not those of the organizers of the event or of the U.K. Government. We want to state clearly that the U.K. is not advising against traveling to Vietnam, nor are we restricting travel into the U.K. by Vietnamese citizens,” it read.

As the Covid-19 outbreak spreads, reaching 97 countries and territories in the latest count, reports of xenophobia and racism are cropping up, with those of Asian descent seen as potential virus carriers.

The novel coronavirus was first detected in China’s Wuhan City last December. It has recording over 80,000 infections and over 3,000 deaths since.

In France, some Asians created the Twitter hashtag #Jenesuispasunvirus (“I am not a virus”) in January to signal racist incidents, slights and slurs faced by the community amidst the outbreak, Reuters reported.

In another local report, a Singaporean student was attacked by a group of men in London, who told him they “did not want coronavirus in our country.”

The U.K. has reported over 160 Covid-19 infection cases and two deaths so far while Canada has reported 54 infections.

In Vietnam, the 17th Covid-19 infection was detected Friday after 22 straight days of no new infections. The infected woman had traveled through London and other parts of Europe including Milan and Paris before returning to Vietnam and testing positive for the virus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

The other 16 infected people have been quarantined, treated and discharged from hospitals.

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