A Vietnamese artist and curator in the U.K. has become the latest target of COVID-19 racism after getting banned from attending an art fair in London because “Asians are being seen as carriers of the virus.”
An Nguyen was supposed to assist in the exhibit for Raquelle Azran, a dealer specializing in contemporary Vietnamese fine art, at the Affordable Art Fair (AFF) in Battersea, London, scheduled to launch next week.
But in an email earlier this week, Azran informed Nguyen that her role had been canceled as her presence in their stand would “create hesitation.”
“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,” Azran wrote. “Your presence on the stand would unfortunately create hesitation on the part of the audience to enter the exhibition space.”
This is absolutely wild. Vietnamese artist An Nguyen has been asked to not show up at @AAFLondon because their presence would ‘create hesitation’ for the non-asian audience. pic.twitter.com/t0kjmFWMvR
— Anthony Ing (@AnthonyIng) March 5, 2020
Nguyen, who shared a screenshot of the email on Instagram, did not name Azran in order to prevent a potential witch-hunt.
“I have shared my email without the sender to address non-violent racism,” she wrote, according to the Independent. “If you are seeing that the issue is solely with the person in question alone it is not. It is the systematic structure of knowledge production that informs some of us that normalising non-aggressive discrimination is acceptable which needs to change.”
However, it did not take long before Azran’s identity was revealed. In a statement, the art dealer apologized for “any offense” and announced that she will no longer be at the upcoming Battersea event.
“I apologize unreservedly for any offense caused by my actions. They were insensitive and in hindsight reflected poor judgment for me to cancel An Nguyen joining my stand as an assistant,” Azran said, according to CNN. “I will no longer be exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair next week. I shall continue, as I have over the past two decades, to encourage and exhibit Vietnamese artists and help them achieve the recognition they deserve.”
AAF also released a statement maintaining that they had nothing to do with Azran’s email.
“The message was not sent by the Affordable Art Fair and was a communication sent by a 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,” AAF wrote. “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.”
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 in Battersea. The message was not sent by the Affordable Art Fair and we in no way condone its contents, see a full statement here: pic.twitter.com/Y59X0Hdiib
— Affordable Art Fair (@AAFLondon) March 5, 2020
The news of Nguyen’s experience comes just as the chief medical officer in England, Prof. Chris Whitty, warned against the vilification of those feared to have the infection, according to The Guardian.
On Feb. 24, a Singaporean student was attacked on Oxford Street by a group of four men who assumed he had COVID-19, leaving him with facial fractures that likely warrant reconstructive surgery.
Interestingly, Nguyen’s story has other news sources confusing her with another An Nguyen — an artist living in Ottawa, Canada.
In an Instagram post, the latter claimed that she had been contacted by outlets such as the BBC, CNN and The Guardian for an interview, adding that it has already affected her unfairly.
“I am not the artist mentioned in this article as I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, not London, England,” Nguyen declared, referring to an article by Raw Story that used her image. “I feel disappointed that this level of racism targeted towards Asian people is occurring and encourage people to be aware of how your biases can negatively affect others whether intentional or unintentional. Spread love, not fear.”
She added, “To the An Nguyen who this article is truly about, I can’t imagine dedicating all this time to your art then have this opportunity unfairly taken away because of your skin colour. I hope you keep pursuing your passion for art in spite of this.”
View this post on Instagram
I normally don’t get political, but I have spent the past 24 hours responding to interview requests by major media outlets like BBC news, CNN, the Guardian etc in relation to the article below. It has now unfairly affected me. Here is my official statement which will appear on my social media www.annguyenartist.com / Instgram @AnNguyen.Artist . “I am not the artist mentioned in this article as I live in Ottawa ON Canada, not London England. I feel disapointed that this level of racism targeted towards asian people is occurring and encourage people to be aware of how your biases can negatively affect others whether intentional or unintentional.Spread love not fear. To the An Nguyen who this article is truly about, I can’t imagine dedicating all this time to your art then have this opportunity unfairly taken away because of your skin colour. I hope you keep pursuing your passion for art in spite of this. ” https://www.rawstory.com/2020/03/asian-artists-told-not-to-show-up-for-art-fair-because-itll-create-coronavirus-anxiety/
Feature Image via Vietnam Tourism (Right)