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Since its founding in 1977, International Museum Day has been held every May 18 to celebrate museums as valuable spaces for cultural exchange.
This year’s festivities will be a little different, however, as the coronavirus continues to shutter many of the world’s favorite institutions.
Museums big and small have suffered financial losses due to closures in recent months. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art predicted losses of nearly $100 million after it closed on March 13, and according to the American Alliance of Museums, across the US, museums are losing at least $33 million a day.
It’s not just the US — museums and galleries all over the world have had to shutter their doors. “Raffaello,” an exhibition at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Italian Renaissance painter Raphael closed on March 8 after just three days.
A virtual tour of the exhibition has been made available online, and Eike Schmidt, the director of the Uffizi Museum in Florence, who worked closely with the Scuderie del Quirinale to set up the show, said the physical exhibition would be extended until the end of the year, if necessary.
However, in many cases, it’s not possible to delay shows due to crowded timetables and the extra cost of insurance and loans. Some curators have spent months — even years — researching and preparing exhibitions that will never materialize.
But museums are slowly reopening, in Europe and Asia especially. Since mid-March, exhibitions in China, Germany, South Korea and Switzerland have started welcoming visitors, many of whom must adhere to new rules on temperature checks and social distancing.
In Munich, the Bavarian State Painting Collections’ museums are allowing one visitor per 20 square meters (215 square feet) of exhibition space. And, across China, visitors’ QR codes are being scanned for details on their health and recent travel history.
Below is a running list of some of the museums that have reopened — or have announced they will soon.
West Bund Museum, Shanghai, China
Architect David Chipperfield’s glass-fronted West Bund Museum reopened to the public back in March. The exhibition “The Shape of Time,” part of a long-term partnership with France’s Centre Pompidou, is still on view. The show consists of more than a hundred works of modern European art loaned from the Paris institution’s permanent collection.
The Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China
Home to the Shanghai Biennale since 2012, the Power Station of Art is China’s first state-run contemporary art museum, and was one of the first cultural institutions to reopen in Shanghai on March 13, after seven weeks. Set in a renovated power plant, complete with a 165-meter-high (541-foot) chimney, the museum showcases the work of both Chinese and international artists.
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea
Seoul’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opened at the end of March, and has since introduced a new collection of Korean art dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. The collection is divided into four sections, each covering a time period, including the Japanese occupation (from 1910 to 1945) and the 1950s aftermath of the Korean War.
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong SAR, China
Visitors to Hong Kong museums will be allocated two-hour time slots in order to reduce crowding. The 13 public institutions reopened thus far include the city’s Heritage Museum, the Museum of History and the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which was required to shutter shortly after completing a four-year renovation.
Asia Society, Hong Kong SAR, China
To mark its 30th anniversary, the Asia Society is currently hosting an exhibition of 10 contemporary Hong Kong artists’ work.
UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China (reopens May 21)
Beijing’s UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is set to reopen on May 21 with the exhibition “Meditations in an Emergency,” which brings together more than 20 international artists’ work to explore themes of crisis and emergency. The show’s opening will coincide with Beijing’s annual Gallery Weekend (beginning May 22) in the Chinese capital’s 798 gallery district.
Berliniche Galerie Museum of Modern Art, Berlin, Germany
According to guidelines set by the German government, all museum visitors will be required to wear masks. Museum authorities in Berlin are also reserving slots for “high-risk groups.” Berlin’s Museum of Modern Art opened its doors on May 4, and currently has a rotation of temporary exhibitions on display, including a show highlighting the work of German photographer Otto Umbehr, aka “Umbo.”
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy
Italy’s National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art reopens on National Museum Day, complete with a new exhibition “A Distanza Ravvicinata” (or “At Close Range”). Shows on display at the time of the country’s lockdown in early March will also reopen to visitors, including exhibitions on the work of Italian artists Gregorio Botta, Maria Elisabetta Novello and Attilio Cassinelli. The gallery is among the first major museums to reopen in Italy, with others expected to follow in the coming days and weeks.
The Giacometti Institute, Paris, France
The Giacometti Institute is one of the best-known establishments to reopen in Paris thus far, with a number of smaller museums also having resumed operations. A maximum of 10 people will be allowed in every 10 minutes, and bathrooms remain off-limits. The institute is currently showing “In Search of Lost Works,” an exhibition investigating lesser-known works by Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Located just outside of Basel, the Fondation Beyeler opened on May 11 after announcing extensions to two of its temporary exhibitions, “Edward Hopper” and “Silent Vision — Images of Calm and Quiet.” Visitors to the museum must purchase tickets ahead of time, and each ticket will be assigned a designated time slot.
The Old Masters Museum, Brussels, Belgium (reopens May 19)
The Old Masters Museum, featuring Flemish works from the 15th to 18th centuries, will be the first of Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts to open to the public — though the others are expected to follow in the coming weeks. The number of hourly visitors will be limited, with people expected to follow distancing precautions.
Museum Brandhorst, Munich, Germany (reopens May 19)
Munich’s Museum Brandhorst, which houses some of the most iconic works by American artists Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol in Europe, is set to reopen its doors on May 19. The museum is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special exhibition exploring its collection of contemporary works dating back to the 1960s.