Today for Art & Politics we are exploring the new normal that art institutions might have to adopt post-pandemic.
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In March 2020 the WHO announced Coronavirus was a pandemic. The disease wasn’t going away soon. So the world over, people were asked to stay home. However, when the lock downs started, no one thought they would last this long. After all, most of us have no experience of living through a pandemic. Who knows what to expect.
As a result of having to quickly shut offices – museums and galleries had no time to strategise. Shows were simply postponed indefinitely. Number of visitors even for the world’s best museum’s reduced to zero.
Now, approximately 3 months since the lock downs were announced, governments of some countries are planning to re-open art institution. Note, the threat of the virus still looms large. However, as does the growing threat of a complete economic meltdown. Thus, in the interest of generating revenue and supporting the arts, countries like America and Italy are reopening their museums. Of course, this in no way implies that things will go back to normal.
The New Normal
Museum authorities worldwide are still exploring what the new guidelines for visiting will be. Social distancing rules will need to be adhered to strictly. But this in itself is a challenge. Art exhibitions by definition tend to be crowded places, open to the general public. Consequently, institutions might even need to limit the number of people allowed in at a time. This implies that most visits will be by appointment, or in some way ticketed. Temperature and health checks will be mandatory for anyone wishing to enter the premises. Furthermore, wearing masks and gloves might also be necessary.
Is Opening Museums the Solution?
Despite some countries announcing the opening of their art institutions, we wonder if this will help salvage the arts and culture industry in any significant way. Having visitors will add pressure on museum staff and increase their risk of contracting infections. Moreover, the crowd will need to be appropriately handled to ensure people do not come into close proximity with one another. Revenue generated from tickets will still see significant reduction. Since only limited number of people will be allowed to enter at a time. Finally, there is no confirmation that the international travel ban will be lifted. Thus, museums will lose potential revenue from international visitors.
If we look at galleries and auction houses, they too will need a long-term plan to bounce back. While Sotheby’s and Christie’s are scheduled to open soon, they might still see a drop in sales. With the global economy being impacted, one is doubtful about how much money people will be willing to invest in art.
While opening up museums is an important step towards normalcy, it is not a solution to the massive problems facing the art world. The art market was in trouble before the Coronavirus brought everything to a standstill. The question of how to mitigate the damage caused by the pandemic is still unanswered.
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