ART UNDER QUARANTINE: GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS BATTLE CORONAVIRUS

ART UNDER QUARANTINE: GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS BATTLE CORONAVIRUS

Following the concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19), art establishments around the world have closed their doors and geared up for economic blows and virtual interactions.


As the global pandemic continues to advance at an alarming rate, art institutions have been forced to close their doors until further notice, without knowing when regular day-to-day activities might resume.

However, museums and galleries are now offering alternatives to stay connected with art, while they figure out how they are going to sustain activities and deal with the economic impact, without receiving visitors or revenues.

Photo by wen chen on Unsplash

The new normal

In the face of recent events, digital platforms are giving rise to thousands of virtual opportunities in various museums, galleries or public art institutes. The challenge is a tough one: to define a new action plan for these spaces, with a complex infrastructure, supporting employees, artists, and the art itself.

The situation has been steadily getting more complicated in the last days, as tickets and admissions are being refunded, and the exhibitions are being postponed until further notice. As is the case for many businesses during this time, not only money is not being generated, but these institutions (that normally rely on a flux of visitors) are losing too. To combat this problem, new ways of conquering the public have to be achieved.

With the spread of COVID-19, the cybernetic area has taken the lead as the main strategy to continue engagement with audiences in social media platforms, sharing interactive and relevant content for a dynamic audience.

An international example is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the largest art museum in the United States, known colloquially as the Met. For this particular situation, the museum acted consciously and quickly, announcing in their webpage that they would be temporarily closed until July, but that they are already sharing cultural content with the proposal “Experience the Met, anywhere”: a wide range of materials available for all virtual visitors to enjoy. The digital program offers virtual visits (360° views) to the emblematic spaces of the museum, artworks available to download and re-use, videos, podcasts, and activities to stay amused at home for free.

“We hope that even when the buildings are temporarily closed the Museum can provide some measure of comfort through the beauty and wonder of the world’s shared cultural history.”

– Daniel H Weiss and Max Hollein (from the blog of the museum website, metmuseum.org)

On the other hand, the Met hopes to recover the looming financial strain on the institution with a plan that does not destroy their program for the whole year. Worst will be for other institutions that don’t have such economic support, and will have to be assisted by governments or loans to undergo huge financial hits.

Image by Cindy Ord from Getty Images

This panorama has also changed the reception of global events such as art fairs, like Art Basel that decided to run the digital initiative of “online viewing rooms” from March 20 to March 25. This new format has habilitated the world’s premier galleries to connect with collectors around the world. Curated online exhibitions, streamed live for hundreds of people, video interviews and multimedia, have replaced real life organisations.

The last (but perhaps not the least) issue to be concerned about, is how art entities will reduce costs in the foreseeable future, and how they will attract people to their establishments when tourism revives once again.

And what’s going on in Spain?

Spain’s cultural institutions connect with their public through their own means; museums like Museo del Prado, has shown activity in their Instagram account with an announcement: “We do live videos from Monday to Friday from 9.50 am to 10 am commenting on artworks from the museum”. Also, around twenty different entities collaborate with Google Arts & Culture.

A notable example to talk about is Casa Vicens Gaudí, the first home of the great Catalan modernist architect, that has planned interactive content with the public. They have created a game that will last until the 11th of April, called  #QuedateEnCasaVicens, where you can discover more from the origins of Gaudí, the construction of the house and the museum’s opening in 2017. Everyday, they share a question through instagram stories, where the users have to respond by direct message in private, for a chance to win points.

Image from @casavicens on Instagram

This kind of playful and optimistic initiatives help to bring new virtual visitors from other parts of the world, and to encourage the locals to leave aside the economic hurting, and intensify online activities, cheer up, acknowledge and learn about their own culture.

Post-Pandemic Art World

Though digital experiences may not be comparable to actually being in front of the artworks and seeing them in real life, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our reality and with that reality, the way we consume art. 

During these hard times when serious but necessary precautions are taken socially and economically, when self-isolation and caution has become the norm, we feel the importance of art and culture more than ever as a uniting, hopeful light. Cultural spaces now aim to simulate the pleasure of attending an art exhibition, creating bridges to share unique experiences, and to promote solidarity in participation through virtual actions.

Art entities will heal, with the help of creative solutions in tough times. This is an opportunity to value art more than ever, and in the future, to create a foundation that encourages more participation in cultural life.


For more:

“The arts will recover from the coronavirus, as they did after 9/11. But they might look a lot different.” (external link – The Washington Post)

“El arte no cierra en Internet” (external link – El Pais)