With coronavirus pandemic settling all over the globe, life is beginning to slowly go back to normal. In many countries, museums and art galleries are among the first venues to reopen, after the lockdown. People who enjoyed cultural institutions before will have the opportunity to enjoy them again. Art can even help mitigate some of the negative effects of isolation on the psyche, since it has a calming and relaxing effect.
According to a recent study, art museums are one of only five cultural entities that people are now hoping to visit more so than before the virus. However, it is going to take some time before we can all go back to art venues as if nothing happened.
Mandatory masks and social distancing rules are just some of the guidelines visitors will have to follow, if they want to go back to their favorite art venue. Let’s take a look at some of the measures that museums and galleries are planning to implement to make themselves “COVID-proof”.
Social Distancing Measures
Austria and Germany are some of the first countries that allowed the reopening of their art venues. At first, Germany allowed reopening of spaces smaller than 8000 square meters, but even major venues such as Museum Berggruen and Gemäldegalerie are expected to reopen on May 12th.
But neither one of these venues will go back to normal immediately. In every venue, no matter how big or small, social distancing measures still apply. Venues demand a minimum of 1.5 meters of distance between visitors and have employed both staff and social distancing markers to ensure the measures are followed.
The social distancing rules have caused many galleries and museums to rethink their exhibition displays, and put their pieces further apart. Some smaller venues allow entrance for only one visitor at a time. Other venues let people enter in pairs, but then require them to move into different parts of the gallery (to the right and to the left), to avoid further contact. Needless to say, group visits and guided tours are out of the question.
Increased Cleaning and Disinfection
Art venues also have to intensify sanitation for staff, visitors, and premises. Hand sanitizers are dispersed all over the venues. The disinfection of the space, particularly frequently-touched surfaces (such as knobs and toilets) is conducted multiple times every day. Some museums in China, take the temperature of all visitors upon arrival, and even have indoor quarantine areas, where those who show symptoms during the visit can be isolated.
Masks and Physical Barriers
Depending on the legal framework, some art venues make masks compulsory, in others, they are only recommended but not mandatory. Austrian and Chinese galleries, for instance, are asking their visitors to wear masks, which are a legal requirement for everyone, in these countries.
Even in Germany, where masks are not obligatory by law, visitors can’t enter a museum without them. In the Städel Museum, for example, masks can be brought from home or purchased at the entrance. To protect the health and wellbeing of their staff, museums in Berlin have placed Plexiglas barriers around counters that provide information, give out audio guides and sell tickets. To reduce contact between staff and the visitors, many museums only provide non-cash options for ticket purchases, including online and mobile payments.
In order to manage the inflow of visitors inside their venues, many cultural entities have replaced daily tickets with time slot tickets. Time slots allow a limited number of entrances every 15 or 30 minutes. At the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, visitors can buy limited-time tickets that give them up to two hours to see the display.
Some smaller galleries are available for visits by appointment only. Using time slots to limit the number of viewers helps avoid crowding, control the movement inside the venue and ensures that social distancing rules are honored.
Will Museums and Galleries Recover from Major Financial Losses?
While the reopening of museums and galleries is undoubtedly good news for art lovers and employees, the road to full recovery is long and uncertain.
Museums and galleries in the U.K. and the U.S. are still closed, and many institutions have suffered great losses during the lockdown. According to a survey conducted by The Art Newspaper, galleries are expecting a 70% drop in their annual revenue, caused by the pandemic and accompanying closures. Governments of many countries have issued funding plans meant to mitigate the financial effects of the closures, but even that won’t be enough to make everyone stay afloat.
Some museums already had to fire a part of their staff (including the MFA Boston and South Street Seaport Museum), while The Indianapolis Contemporary announced permanent closure. If you are a healthy art-loving individual, this might be the best time to put your mask on, follow the social distancing measures and take a stroll to the nearest gallery or a museum. Considering that almost a third of galleries are expected to close due to COVID-induced economic fallout, you might not get another chance.