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  • June 02, 2020 3:35 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    Museums and galleries in Seoul, South Korea are closing their doors—once again—to preserve public health amid what appears to be a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

    South Korea was praised for its exemplary response to the pandemic, which allowed it to begin responsibly reopening weeks before any other nation in the world. But just as the latest phase of restrictions was eased on May 6, the country suffered a setback. On Wednesday, South Korea reported the highest number of new COVID-19 infections it has seen in the past seven weeks.

    In response, officials have re-implemented shutdown measures in the metropolitan area of Seoul, where 67 of the 79 new reported cases are located, according to the Guardian. Companies have also been urged to adhere to flexible working schedules.

    Museums and art galleries, along with parks, theaters, and other public spaces, will be closed starting Friday, May 29 for two weeks, according to health minister Park Neung-hoo. “We have decided to strengthen all quarantine measures in the metropolitan area for two weeks from tomorrow to June 14,” he told the AFP. Bars, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues—identified as a major vector for the spike—have also shuttered.

    Following the announcement, the Seoul Museum of Art quickly updated its website, stating that it is “temporarily closed for the safety of citizens and the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 disease.” Other shuttered facilities in the culture-rich capital include the Seoul Museum of Art (Seosomun-dong); Nam-Seoul Museum of Art; Buk-Seoul Museum of Art; SeMA Bunker; SeMA Warehouse; Paik Nam June Memorial Museum; and SeMA Nanji Residency. Leeum, the Samsung Museum of Art, is offering visitors a virtual reality tour while it remains closed.

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  • June 02, 2020 3:30 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    From capped visitor numbers to surgical gloves and temperature checks, here's how cultural institutions are getting ready to leave lockdown

    The closure of Europe’s museums was swift. Three months on, their reawakening is a slower, more anxious transition, dictated by government orders and public health guidance. Preventing museum-goers from touching the art suddenly pales next to the challenges of welcoming them back during a pandemic—ensuring they keep a safe distance from staff, each other and common surfaces. But for all the constraints, people are returning to physical experiences of art. The Art Newspaper spoke to museums in five countries leaving lockdown about their strategies for reopening safely, and what the public reaction has been so far.

    GERMANY

    German museums have reopened gradually, according to the specific guidelines issued by the country’s 16 states. Brandenburg led the way, allowing small rural museums to reopen on 22 April. The Brandenburg State Museum for Modern Art in Cottbus, around 100km from Berlin, followed on 1 May.

    It is providing poles and ribbons exactly 1.5m long so visitors can maintain the minimum distance allowed between members of different households. The distance is also marked on the foyer floor. Other precautions include a plexiglass shield protecting staff at the ticket counter and dispensers of hand sanitiser that “cost a fortune”, says the museum’s director, Ulrike Kremeier.

    Capacity is limited to 100 visitors at a time, with staff regulating the flow through the galleries to ensure 20 sq. m per person. “Our visitors are sensible people,” Kremeier says. “I don’t anticipate problems.” Group tours probably will not start again until the autumn. Masks are not obligatory but are recommended.

    The museum is launching a series of pandemic-inspired collection displays, exploring the themes of the handshake (until 5 July), masks (11 July-30 August) and gloves (5 September-11 October). A new video in the foyer examines solutions devised by artists of the past for personal protection in public, such as Weegee’s photograph Boy Meets Girl—From Mars (around 1955), in which a couple embraces through bubble helmets.

    POLAND

    Energetic behind-the-scenes preparations allowed the Royal Castle in Warsaw to be the first major Polish museum to reopen after government restrictions were relaxed for cultural institutions on 4 May. “The castle is waiting, the castle continues,” says its director, Wojciech Fałkowski.

    The speedy reopening was helped by the museum’s non-narrative layout, which offered more freedom to create a new one-way tour route. There is no air-conditioning (a potential means of spreading the virus), the two lifts are rarely used, and ticket windows were already shielded. Audioguides have been locked away and only individual visitors are permitted. 

    Visitors must wear masks and stay 2m away from each other and museum staff, who have replaced white cotton gloves with plastic surgical ones. Visitor numbers are capped at 100 per hour, and the exhibits limited to a handful of historic interiors. Victims of the pruned tour are the castle’s star Rembrandt paintings, Girl in a Picture Frame and The Scholar at the Lectern(both 1641), which remain in a separate gallery on a different floor.

    Despite the absence of the Rembrandts, attendance so far has been brisk, revealing a pent-up desire for culture among Poles who had been subject to stay-at-home orders from 12 March. But no one can say when the numbers will return to those for 2019, a record year when the castle welcomed more than a million visitors.

    FRANCE

    While major museums in Paris remain closed—the region is classified as a “red zone” due to its higher virus risk—the bijou Institut Giacometti reopened on 15 May, four days after France eased the lockdown for small museums.

    A maximum of ten visitors can book a 20-minute time slot online (a quarter of the previous capacity). Opening times are now an hour later, 11am-7pm, so staff can avoid public transport during peak hours. 

    Bookings for the first three days sold out. “The interest was immediate—people were waiting for direct contact with art again,” says Catherine Grenier, the institute’s president.

    Safety measures follow advice from the French health ministry, the institute’s partner in Beijing and the reopening strategies of German museums. Red tape demarcates the socially distanced queue outside the Art Deco building and hand sanitiser is available at the front desk, where one member of staff works behind plexiglass. According to a “visitors’ charter”, everyone must bring their own masks and stand at least 1.5m apart. 

    The exhibition In Search of Lost Works (extended to 21 June) remains unchanged, except the printed booklet has been replaced by an audioguide that visitors can access on their smartphones via the website or by scanning a QR code.

    Though there are no plans to address the pandemic in future displays, Grenier says Giacometti’s work “always” evokes themes of “fragility, weakness, resistance and humanity”.

    AUSTRIA

    The first Viennese museums to emerge from lockdown, the imperial palaces and the Lower Belvedere, greeted visitors from 15 May with shielded ticket counters, instructions to wear masks at all times and disinfectant dispensers. 

    The Austrian government also prescribes 10 sq. m of space per visitor, a rule that drastically limits access to museums and galleries. Daily capacity at Schönbrunn Palace is now 1,750, far below the peak of 10,000 on busy days before the pandemic, says the director Klaus Panholzer. However, he adds: “Our joy for the restart has overcome every difficulty to get ready in such a short time.”

    On 11 March, Austria ordered all cultural venues to close until 30 June, but on 17 April a new decree allowed museums to reopen by mid-May. “That new announcement came as a great surprise to the federal museums,” says Stella Rollig, the director of the Belvedere. “Having to reopen so quickly naturally presented organisational problems, but we are complying with all rules, and security measures are being well received by the visitors.”

    The first weekend brought 750 visitors to the Lower Belvedere, where the Into the Night exhibition was resumed (until 1 June). In the Upper Belvedere, due to reopen on 1 July, the usual time-slot bookings might be combined with a one-way system to prevent overcrowding. Most other Viennese museums are staggering their reopenings from late May to 1 July. 

    ITALY

    Closed since 8 March, Italian museums and sites have reopened in dribs and drabs from 18 May. First were those that had the resources to enforce state safety regulations, including the Galleria Borghese in Rome, Castello di Rivoli near Turin and Pompeii archaeological park. 

    A number of private institutions also reopened quickly, such as Milan’s Poldi Pezzoli house museum and Turin’s Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation (with mandatory masks and a maximum of 15 visitors at a time, accompanied by guides) and Camera photography centre

    Camera now expects 700 visitors a week, compared to the 3,000 who flocked to the current exhibition of the Bertero collection (until 30 August) in nine days before the lockdown. People can pre-book admission online or wait in the queue outside. Camera has screened off the ticket desk and is supplying disinfectant gel; visitors must wear face masks and, to browse the books in the shop, disposable gloves. 

    Arrows and coloured dots on the floor signal the one-way route and a 1m minimum separation—precautions common to other Italian museums. The main innovation at Camera, according to the director Walter Guadagnini, is the QR code in each room linking to an exhibition audioguide on people’s smartphones “to avoid contagion”.

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  • June 02, 2020 3:20 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    As museums across the US prepare to open their doors to visitors after lockdown, administrators must consider questions that never would have occurred to them just months ago. Is it safe to hang two small works of art next to each other? Is it possible to reconfigure every door to open automatically? What will make people feel safe enough to visit? 

    We published a planning tool to offer museums a general, practical checklist to approach these questions—but we also understand that every institution and community is unique. 

    To get a sense of the scope of the challenges facing individual institutions, we caught up with three museum directors in three different cities—Mary Ceruti of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Franklin Sirmans of the Pérez Art Museum Miami; and Adam Levine of the Toledo Art Museum—who are in the midst of figuring out how to welcome back their publics.

    Mary Ceruti, director, Walker Art Center

    How will you determine when to reopen?

    We’re using a few different inputs—official public health guidance, the field-wide collection of best practices, common sense, and direction from the governor. Because the Walker is multidisciplinary—we are a museum, theater, cinema, event space, restaurant, shop—we are looking at lots of different institutions.  

    Have you gotten guidance from the governor on where museums fall in the reopening plan?

    I am not optimistic that he is going to give us any concrete information at this point. After I get off the phone with you, I have a call with a group of us—museums, performing arts venues, historical societies—that are meeting regularly with his office. They are waiting for us to develop solid guidelines as a group. It’s challenging because of course, we will all have different timelines and issues we need to address, so we are now breaking into subgroups. 

    How are you deciding what to open first?

    We’re going to start with the galleries, which is a bit easier because museums are already designed to control how people move through those spaces. We also have HVAC systems and can make sure the filtration is good. It’s different from a theater, where you are putting people in an enclosed space for over an hour. 

    How are you adapting your exhibitions to this new reality?  

    The first show that we’ll be installing this summer is called “Designs for Different Futures,” a design exhibition that is about imagining how the world could change: the future of food, work, parenting. It feels like a really relevant exhibition, but it also has a lot of interactive elements, which we are now removing or showing without a mouse or touchscreen. As we go through the floorplan and checklist, the curators are also trying to write new guidelines for how you make an exhibition right now. 

    What’s an example of something that has to change? 

    A video gallery is a small, enclosed space, which usually, in temporary exhibitions, doesn’t have ventilation. We are also thinking about using directional speakers instead of headphones. But my big lesson in this—one that I have to keep teaching myself—is not to make decisions too soon. Information is evolving all the time, and we are going to make better decisions the more we know. 

    How do you weigh risk differently for the performing arts segment?

    It’s complicated because there are all these questions about social distancing on stage, in dressing rooms, in the back of house. What does that look like? We’re really not there yet. We’re encouraging our performing arts programmers to think about using this time to work with artists in different ways. Maybe it’s residencies, maybe it’s research and development. Maybe a performing artist wants to think about audience differently and use the building instead of a theater space. I think it’s going to be a really interesting moment of experimentation.

    I was recently listening to an interview with the chef Tom Colicchio, and he was describing the challenge of reopening restaurants. Since it still costs them the same amount of money to operate, even if they are at 25 percent capacity, it can actually be a money-losing proposition to reopen. Are you going to confront the same challenge? 

    Absolutely. Performing arts organizations have a bigger challenge in that regard because of their business model. The reality is that museums break even as nonprofits, but I don’t know any museum that earns all their revenue, so they are always operating at a loss. It’s just a question of, how much can you make up for it? In our case, it’s going to be a matter of subsidizing our budget to a greater degree from endowment draw and contributed income. You still have to size things: we will have fewer shows turning over in the next year or two. We will initially be open fewer days of the week. It’s also a bit of a different equation [from restaurants] because we aren’t in it to make money. 

    What has been the most difficult part of the reopening process? 

    So far, the hardest part is understanding not just the risks, but the psychology. Because there is so much uncertainty, there is a big range in terms of how people feel—both staff and potential audience. That is the biggest challenge: to give people confidence that we are doing everything we can, but also recognizing that we can’t create zero risk for everybody.

    I think people are going to feel a lot better when they are in these environments. I was just saying to our visitor-services person, “You, me, and our designer need to go into the building in a socially distanced way and think through some of this stuff.” Our visitor-services people are thinking through every single step they take when they sell a ticket—a clean pen goes into the dirty pen box, etc. It’s amazing they can do it, but another part of me feels that it’s ripe for overthinking. Once we are in there doing these things, it isn’t going to feel so scary.

    Franklin Sirmans, director, Pérez Art Museum Miami

    Florida was one of the first states to begin reopening, at the beginning of May—earlier than most experts said was advisable. On the other hand, PAMM was one of the first institutions to state publicly that it would remain closed all summer (weeks before the Metropolitan Museum of Art made a similar announcement). How did you make that call so quickly?

    About a month after everyone started working from home on March 16, we were able to make an assessment of the impact of the closure. We looked at a three-month scenario that would put us at early summer and a six-month scenario, which would put us at the beginning of fall. Accounting for our research and looking specifically at our museum, where summer is the height of the tropical season and kids are getting ready to go back to school, it looked like September 1 was a good target date. If things were to drastically change, and you get nothing but a decrease in cases here, then we could try and accelerate that schedule. But right now it feels right. 

    What will be happening between now and then?

    It allows us to do some things in phases. Can we get our sculpture garden up within the next six weeks? I think that’s a strong possibility. Can we, assuming that there is interest, do a really cool program on our beautiful portico looking out at Biscayne Bay, providing a scene of incredible solace for people to come back to? We’re connected to a 30-acre park. Can we bring people back in a way that makes outdoors the new indoors for a little bit? How do we take advantage of the fact that we are in a warm-weather place?

    How are you caring for the building and the collection in the interim? 

    We have a ride-out team—we’re used to that because we always have a crew for hurricane season. That put us a step ahead. Then the question becomes, how do we add people to that team safely? Can we move a 20-something-foot-wide wood piece by Leonardo Drew under social distancing? How do the doors open? Do they open automatically? We close all the water fountains, obviously. Do we provide a new kind of signage that is digital? How do we bring people up from our parking lot if you can only have one or two people in an elevator all of a sudden? 

    How is this closure affecting your programming? I know you all ended up cancelling one of your upcoming exhibitions, “Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection,” a show of abstract painting by black artists that has been traveling around the country. 

    It was a really hard decision to make, but I think one that had to be made, to let the show go. Do we just keep bumping everything back forever? All the works for the other exhibition [“Allied With Power: African and African Diaspora Art From the Jorge M. Pérez Collection”] are already in Miami. And we have other things to consider. We can’t put small, intimate works next to each other anymore, at least not for a while. So as we are thinking of expanding the [Pérez] show to take up the entire space, do we really need to add more work? Maybe not.  

    You have had to make dramatic changes to your staffing, laying off 15 people and furloughing 54 out of a staff of 120. How does that factor into your reopening plans? 

    Our assessments unfortunately involved letting go of some people in order to cover the decreased revenues of the entire year. We anticipated that the combined contributed and earned revenue was going to be off 20 to 30 percent, $3 million to $5 million. The majority of those people—visitor services, retail staff, teaching artists—are furloughed, and the idea is that they will come right back as soon as we reopen. We can’t function without them. 

    Have you been able to pay the staff on furlough?

    We were able to pay them with no changes through May 4. So the changes went into effect very recently. 

    One subject that has come up in a lot of my conversations is access. For years leading up to this point, museums had been working to break down the barriers that had made them inaccessible to so much of the population. And now, certain barriers must be put up again. If you can only sell tickets online, you are inaccessible to those without internet access. If you are eliminating high-touch offerings like touchscreens, that makes it more difficult for disabled people to navigate the museum. How are you thinking about that paradox?

    We knew then, and we know now more than ever, that we have to figure out a way to deal with inequity, to deal with the fact that there is a major disparity in access to the things we provide. We’ve done that through free days and targeted programs, but this has only exacerbated the problem. We have been continuing to provide school tours for classrooms—educators are taking students around the museum virtually on Zoom—but of course not everyone has internet access. We need to come up with new ways to function as a museum. 

    When you have a hurricane, the museum can be a source of relief supplies, people can come and pick them up. What’s hard about this invisible thing is that we feel like we can’t be active in our community. Everyone is trying to help each other—how to get back up and running safely is the number one concern. 

    Adam Levine, director, Toledo Museum of Art

    You took this job as the country was going on lockdown. What was that like? 

    This is an unprecedented moment, obviously. But I had spent six years in Toledo previously [before my prior job], and that certainly helped. The onboarding process went from listening to people in person to over the phone and on Zoom.

    How are you going to determine when to reopen?

    We will not reopen before the governor says it’s OK to do so. Ohio’s stay-at-home order expires on May 29, so we have been working toward the following month—and even if we aren’t allowed, it doesn’t hurt to be over prepared. We created a task force and identified three hurdles we needed to clear: the rearranging of physical space, the generation of HR policies, and the provision of personal protective equipment [PPE] to our team. There was no circumstance in which we would reopen to visitors before we had staff back in the building. So phase one is getting staff back, with a phased reopening for our audience in the weeks to follow. 

    How are you working to adapt the office space?

    In Ohio, offices were able to reopen on May 4. But we still have not brought staff back to the museum. Our utilities, maintenance, and IT staff are in the building this week reorienting the space. Then we are having an infectious-disease expert come in to review our layouts.

    What sort of changes are you making?

    This is a place where museums have a competitive advantage: we have preparators on staff and we have Plexiglas because we make vitrines, so we are actually able to make our own barriers. And our installation designer designed the Plexiglas barriers so they are incredibly elegant to look at. We will continue to promote working from home to the extent that’s possible. 

    The issue [of social distancing] is not so much in the gallery space as the bottlenecks. The staff entrance is not configured to be a grand, spacious place. So staff will report to work in 15-minute increments for staggered entry. You also have to consider the fact that some employees will be hourly, so people will be compensated for wait time. 

    What safety measures are you looking to put in place when opening to the public?

    All of our plans for staff and visitors will be subject to an industrial hygienist review: cashless environment, timed tickets, frontline staff behind plexiglass, temperature scanning on the way in. We’re aware that not everyone has access to an online resource to book a ticket, so we are making sure there is capacity for walk-ins. We did some sophisticated modeling for how people will migrate along a path in the museum. We’ve had that flow and our opening capacity approved by the fire marshal, so we are ready to go. 

    What are the most logistically difficult measures to implement? 

    Nothing about this is easy. And nothing is easier than I thought. But the thing which is most important to understand is that visitors and staff need to be treated with tremendous empathy right now. The challenge and the opportunity is to make staff and visitors feel comfortable and to bring some prism of equity to this conversation and appreciate that different people have different expectations. Managing all of those concurrently is an awful lot of the job and communicating the decisions is a really complicated part of this moment. In the same way that institutions that have invested in digital systematically and over a long period are well positioned, institutions who have cultivated empathy will also be rewarded. 

    Does communicating about this to staff require different considerations than communicating about anything else? 

    Communicating through a crisis requires more frequent communication, but the nature of the communication—and our principles of being compassionate, accommodative, logical, and reasonable—are the same. You don’t have to have the answer to every question, but you do need to share that you are working on the answer to that question. People will give you grace if you are graceful back to them. 

    Are there certain artworks or areas to which you will have to limit access? How will new rules affect something like the Kusama “Infinity Room” you had on view before lockdown?

    We have the Infinity Room Fireflies on the Water on loan from the Whitney, and that will be closed when we reopen. That is a good example of something that we need to think through methodologically to get us comfortable that it is safe for visitors, and to figure out how to make visitors feel safe. 

    Have you had to make any layoffs or furloughs during this period?

    We have not laid anyone off or furloughed anyone, and we have made no pay cuts. We have just extended that policy through June 30. 

    So many museums have had to make cuts—how did you avoid it?

    We valued our employees. The museum was well managed coming into this, we had liquidity, and we were able to increase liquidity over the run of the closure, leveraging some tools that were available to us and making a choice that retaining full employment was going to position us well in the short term as we spin back up, and in the long term, as a way to differentiate ourselves. We have 300 people on payroll, including part-time workers. 

    Does being an encyclopedic museum present different challenges than a contemporary art institution or kunsthalle? 

    I don’t know that there are any substantive differences. But the museum was founded in 1901, and that means it was around in 1918 [during the flu outbreak]. It’s very helpful to remember that institutions, including ours, have been through this before. On October 13, 1918, Mayor Cornell Schreiber issued a closing order and the Toledo Museum was closed for 46 days. We made it through that and we will make it through this. 

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  • June 02, 2020 3:15 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    As of one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe begins to ease, French museums and public monuments will reopen gradually in June and July, the country's Culture Ministry has announced. 

    The Louvre-Lens, 200km north of Paris, will be one of the first to open its doors next Wednesday, 3 June, with Black Suns, an exhibition on the history of the colour black in painting (until 25 January, free entry throughout June). 

    The Château de Versailles will follow suit on 6 June, then Paris's Musée du Quai Branly (on 9 June) and the Musée d'Orsay on 23 June, with a James Tissot show. The Centre Pompidou and the Grand Palais (the latter with an exhibition on Pompei) will open on 1 July, with the Musée Guimet and Musée Rodin a week later.

    Meanwhile, the Louvre "is working towards a planned reopening on 6 July", its chairman Jean-Luc Martinez tells The Art Newspaper today. He indicated that "70% of the space, representing 65,000 square meters of galleries, will be accessible". 

    Strict rules will still apply. Although parks and gardens, such as Versailles or the Tuileries, will be open this weekend, playgrounds remain closed and gatherings of more than ten people prohibited. Museums will give priority to online reservations booked for a specified time. Masks will still be compulsory. 

    A signposted routing system will be set up in the Louvre to avoid visitors crossing each others paths. Attendance in the Monna Lisa's room will remain subject to physical distancing rules and the museum's show on artists' self portraits will continue throughout the summer. The 2020 star exhibition, dedicated to Italian Renaissance sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo, has been postponed to October and will continue until January, before going to Milan, says Martinez who praises the "international cooperation between museums, which has allowed the renewal of loans". The exhibition on the Renaissance German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, initially planned for this spring, will be held at the same time. 

    Visited by some 10m people each year, the highest museum attendance in the world, the Louvre is a special case. Martinez expects this figure to collapse this summer, with foreign visitors (who make up more than 75% of attendance) predicted to stay away. About half of the museum's budget relies on entries and commercial revenues. Martinez declines to give details of the losses suffered so far this year, but they will be considerable—during lockdown, the museum had to refund 70,000 online reservations and secure 800 works on loan around the world. But between 12 March and 21 May, traffic to its website reached a record 10.5m visits in 71 days, 17% of them from the US.

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  • June 02, 2020 3:11 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from the Houston Chronicle

    Ronn Canon arrived about ten minutes before the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston reopened to members Wednesday morning.

    That made him the first non-staffer, aside from Chronicle photographer Elizabeth Conley and me, to visit Houston’s largest art institution in more than two months.

    Canon didn’t have to navigate much of the small maze of stanchions and two remote-sensor devices that look like iPhones on tripods just inside the main Beck Building doors, where visitors have their temperatures checked before entering the vaunted halls, wearing face masks.

    Eager and purposeful, he wasn’t fazed by the process, which took a few seconds. A museum member for more than 50 years, he normally visits at least once a week and had last been there March 11, a few days before the MFAH closed.

    Canon was headed downstairs, through the Turrell tunnel and up to the mezzanine of the Law Building, anxious to pick up where he had left off with the “Glory of Spain” show. “I only did about two galleries on previous trips,” he said. “It’s just a little overwhelming. It’s a big, big exhibition.”

    More than a dozen museum staffers stood around in the entry hall, nearly outnumbering the first wave of visitors. “Good morning! Welcome back!” they said cheerfully from behind their face masks. “You’re free to explore as you will!”

    Architect Peiwen Yu, like Canon, said she also normally visits weekly, partly to watch the construction progress on the Kinder Building. “Sometimes I just want to be part of this environment,” she said. “I like to visit a real gallery space. In the past month I’ve been doing a lot of streaming to see different galleries and videos, but it’s not the same as coming here and being part of this beauty. It’s just a place that makes you feel like part of the city.”

    Yu also ambled off toward “Glory of Spain,” as did most of the visitors during that first hour. The museum logged 160 member visits that day and 486 on Thursday, with slightly longer hours. It opens to the public Saturday.

    Beyond the big attractions

    Happy to be back but still feeling cautious, I headed to the permanent galleries on the Beck Building’s second floor, knowing they would be near-empty. They were quiet even before the shutdown, except during school tours or patrons’ dinners, when a room could be stuffed wall-to-wall with party tables of well-heeled, shoulder-to-shoulder guests and a phalanx of waiters.

    I wondered what would speak to me now in the galleries that hold the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Collection and works in the MFAH’s permanent collections of European art, with their color-coded walls of paintings spanning centuries.

    Temporary exhibitions such as “Glory of Spain” and “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings,” both up through most of the summer, educate and entertain more dynamically. They keep visitors coming but also make it easy to forget that the soul of the museum is its own encyclopedic foundation.

    The MFAH, and by extension all of Houston, owns more than 70,000 works of art covering the arc of history from antiquity to the present. Maybe we have not appreciated them enough.

    Amid the many dramatic saint and sinner narratives from the Renaissance, when artists painted for churches and the aristocracy, Francisco de Zurbarán’s “Veil of Veronica” caught my eyes. It’s based on an early medieval legend about a pious woman who wiped sweat from Christ’s face on the way to Calvary, miraculously capturing his image on the cloth. The subject was a big seller for Zurbarán; his studio produced more than a dozen versions of it.

    His minimal composition was unusual for the 1630s. The face is realistic yet doesn’t aim for a realistic perspective. It’s rendered expressively in fine, reddish-brown lines and tilted sideways, as if Christ is looking slightly back, over his shoulder.

    I’ve seen other versions that are more refined, but the tour-de-force is still the shadowy, draping cloth, suspended ever-so-vulnerably from a couple of threads in a way that creates a voluptuous shape Georgia O’Keeffe would have appreciated.

    I breezed by Sebastiano Ricci’s “Last Supper” except to notice that the apostles were not social distancing at the table. The graphically-strong “Geneological Tree of the Mercedarian Order,” by an unidentified Bolivian artist, struck me for the opposite reason: Its figures are isolated like the tapers of a candelabra on little leafy saucers atop each branch of a large tree. The way I see things has changed.

    On this day, gold leaf became a magnet, like shimmering hope as I wove aimlessly through the galleries, ignoring their chronological order. The ornate Colonial frame of the 18th century Peruvian “The Child Mary Spinning,” a painting depicting the mother of Christ as a young aristocrat, would be stunning with nothing in it. But the golden lace details, the jewelry and the fine rays of the little girl’s halo looked as miraculous as anything across the street in “Glory of Spain.”

    That sent me back to a room of Italian paintings from Florence and Siena that date to the late Byzantine era, awash in gold leaf backgrounds that offset the pallid skin of figures rendered in tempera with fine eyes and blushing cheeks.

    Bernardino Fungai’s deeply satisfying narrative panel, “The Beloved of Enalus Sacrificed to Poseidon and Spared,” from about 1512, is a richer masterpiece that deserves a deeper dive. There is so much classical history to be learned in these galleries, along with lessons in art. Knowing my ride would be arriving soon, I focused on the left corner of that painting, where thin gold strokes create the rays of a sun low in the sky and cast a glow on the leaves of trees.

    Back into the world

    I couldn’t leave without devoting time to Fra Angelico’s “Saint Anthony Shunning the Mass of Gold,” one of the smallest and best paintings in these galleries. Probably part of an alterpiece, it depicts an hallucinogenic episode from the life of a hermit who is regarded as the founder of monasticism.

    The devil was tempting Anthony with luxuries: Fra Angelico places the saint on open ground, flanked by barren, jagged rocks and looking down at a chunk of gold slightly larger than his ornate halo. His right hand is raised: Is he shielding himself from daylight, thinking about giving in and picking up the treasure, or resisting it?

    Exiting the museum, I pushed the door handles with my backside, removed my face mask and took a deep breath in the bright sunlight. I knew chunks of gold would be beckoning everywhere, in other forms — the desire to hug friends, to eat a nice meal in a restaurant, to shop without fear.

    For now, a return trip to the museum will suffice.

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  • May 20, 2020 5:17 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will reopen this Saturday, making it the first major American art institution to do so since non-essential business closures went into effect nationwide in March.

    Strict safety measures developed in conjunction with the city and state will be put in place, including mandatory masks for everyone in the building. Visitors will have their temperatures taken upon entering the galleries and plastic panels will be erected in front of the admissions desk and gift shop register. No food, drinks, or large bags will be allowed and the museum’s water fountains and cafe will be closed.

    Visitor capacity will be kept at below 25 percent on a room-by-room basis, and social distancing rules will be enforced. As a result, the museum is encouraging the purchase of advance timed-entry tickets online. (Tickets were made available starting today; a representative from the museum says it does not yet have an estimate for how many people it expects this weekend.)

    “We recognize that circumstances may change at any moment,” said museum director Gary Tinterow in a statement, noting the museum’s “close coordination” with city hall” and other institutions in the Houston museum district. “But we remain hopeful that we will be able to serve our public under the safest possible conditions and under new norms, ones to which Houstonians across the city are already becoming accustomed.”

    Texas governor Greg Abbott announced in late April that the state’s own stay-at-home order would be lifted at the beginning of May, and that museums, among other venues, would be allowed to open then. But the Museum of Fine Arts chose to delay its reopening, saying that the institution’s reopening task-force was still in the process of putting together a strategy for ensuring a safe experience for visitors and its 650 staff members. (The sentiment was echoed by the Contemporary Austin, Dallas Museum of Art, and almost every other sizable institution in Texas.)  

    “We look forward to bringing some staff back into the buildings and welcoming the public,” a Museum of Fine Arts representative said in a statement at the time, “but we are evaluating all of our supplies, including masks and gloves, and assessing our infrastructure to ensure that we are ready to operate the museum’s offices and public areas safely and under social distancing.”

    Another institution that previously chose to hold off on its reopening, the San Antonio Museum of Art, announced today that it too has a plan to return to work in a limited capacity. The venue will open its doors to museum members next Tuesday, May 26, and to the general public on May 28. Safety precautions similar to those devised by the Museum of Fine Arts will be implemented, including mandated masks and social distancing, though the museum will not require temperature checks upon entry. 

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  • May 20, 2020 5:14 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    Lockdown measures have started to ease in the European nations hardest hit by coronavirus. Across Italy, museums are opening their doors to the public again for the first time since March—though they have to adhere to serious new safety precautions.

    Today, May 19, the Castello di Rivoli in Turin was among the first of the nation’s museum to allow the public back in. Director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev expressed optimism about the transition measures to Artnet News. “Museums are carefully controlled spaces that have been designed to protect artworks from people,” she said. “To adapt that to protecting people from people is a small step.”

    Elsewhere, blockbuster shows are starting back up again. The highly anticipated Raphael exhibition at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale was an early victim of the lockdown, closing just three days after it opened in March despite having pre-sold 70,000 tickets. The show includes 120 works by Raphael, thanks to loans from 52 museums and collections to mark the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance great’s death. Almost all of the loans have been extended as needed, according to the Art Newspaper. The exhibition will now run from June 2 to August 30.

    Visitor Safety and Lost Incomes

    Museums that are typically swarmed with visitors from around the world will now be both eerily and joyfully calm. The Castello di Rivoli likened the shift to the slow food movement, which requires a gentler pace of work and, in many ways, more consideration for process. “I think museums can be the prototype for the new normal, which I hope only lasts the time of the pandemic because I actually like the old normal,” adds Christov-Bakarglev.

    Yet the lowered visitor numbers will spell financial trouble for some. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, which on a typical spring day would see visitors numbering around 2,600, will only allow 200 people in per day. “We are very worried,” a spokesperson tells Artnet News. “For the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, the private institution that owns the monuments of the Duomo of Florence, it is a dramatic situation because our earnings all come from the tickets sold, we have no state contributions.”

    The visitor numbers and strategies vary depending on the museum. For the Raphael exhibition, tickets for the show must be booked online in advance. Groups of six visitors will be taken in by a guard who will act as a “chaperone,” and groups will head into the gallery in staggered five-minute intervals. Each group gets 80 minutes with the once-in-a-lifetime show.

    At the Galleria Borghese, which reopens today, May 19, to the public, will allow 120-minute visits of up to 80 people at a time. “This necessity actually provides an opportunity to appreciate the Museum’s marvels with more tranquillity,” says the museum in a statement. And the privately-funding Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo reopened on May 18 and allows 15 people at a time.

    At the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral that is expected to open this week, free devices will be given out to visitors to notify them when they are not social distancing. The novel gadget, which will dangle around visitors’ necks before being disinfected between wears, flashes and vibrates when visitors get too close to each other. It is the first institution to introduce such a device.

    In a statement, the cathedral boasted of being first in the world to use the technology in the museum context, adding that “this system guarantees the maximum of security and comfort during the visit.” The EGOpro Social Distancing necklace by Florence-based company Advance Microwave Engineering has four red lights that begin to turn on and flash in succession, depending on closeness.

    The Castello di Rivoli, which operates with a relatively small budget of €6 million says it lost €1 million due to the lockdown. Christov-Bakargiev says the institution had to invest about €60,000 to upgrade its premises to meet sanitary guidelines. That coupled with the loses incurred by fewer ticket sales over the usually bustling summer months will spell trouble for many museums and institutions.

    The loses incurred will be weathered differently depending on the scale and backing of the museum. The Italian federal government issued a €55 billion “Decreto Rilancio” (relaunch decree) aid package last Wednesday. According to the Art Newspaper, the assistance includes €100 million set aside to support state museums for losses in ticket sales, as well as a €210 million emergency fund that covers bookshops, publishing companies, and arts organizations to fill the gap for cancelled events and exhibitions. Another €100 million goes to a “Culture Fund” that is to provide cultural businesses with long-term loans for investment in physical structures and cultural production for the remainder of 2020 and 2021.

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  • May 20, 2020 5:08 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Art News

    To mark International Museum Day, which took place on May 18, UNESCO and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) released the findings of two studies assessing the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on art institutions around the world. Their findings suggest a dark future that, with some museums forced to close because of the ongoing health crisis.

    UNESCO’s study reveals that 90 percent of museums worldwide—a figure that represents over 85,000 institutions—shuttered temporarily as a result of the pandemic. For some, that closure will likely be permanent: around 13 percent of art institutions may close permanently after major financial losses, the report claims. UNESCO also reports that only 5 percent of museums in Africa and Small Island Developing States were able to offer online content amid the pandemic.

    “Museums play a fundamental role in the resilience of societies. We must help them cope with this crisis and keep them in touch with their audiences,” UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement. “

    Research conducted by ICOM focused on the ways in which museum professions have been affected by the pandemic and how a lack of ticket sales have decreased museums’ incomes.

    “We are fully aware of and confident in the tenacity of museum professionals to meet the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” ICOM president Suay Aksoy said in a statement. “However, the museum field cannot survive on its own without the support of the public and private sectors. It is imperative to raise emergency relief funds and to put in place policies to protect professionals and self-employed workers on precarious contracts.”

    These are not the only recent surveys to highlight the pandemic’s consequences for the art world. Last month, findings from the initiative Artist Relief—a coalition of seven arts grant makers in the United States—showed that 60 percent of artists in the U.S. became unemployed because of the crisis. An ADAA survey also revealed that U.S. galleries are facing massive financial losses because of the pandemic, and a SMU DataArts and TRG Arts report revealed that nonprofit organizations are expecting to lose billions of dollars over the next year.

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  • May 20, 2020 4:56 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    It looks like it’s going to be a long, less-than-art-filled summer in New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is extending its closure until at least mid-August, and is officially cancelling its star-studded Met Gala for 2020.

    When the museum does reopen, guests can expect to see reduced visiting hours, according to a statement issued by institution on Tuesday. The Met is also cancelling all in-person tours and events through the end of the year—planned celebrations of the museum’s 150th anniversary will be delayed until 2021.

    The institution, which has been closed since March 13, had previously been targeting a July 1 reopening.

    The gala, the Costume Institute’s annual benefit hosted by Vogue, had been indefinitely postponed. Although fashion’s biggest night out is taking the year off—aside from an online version staged by precocious Gen Zers on the traditional first Monday in May—”About Time: Fashion and Duration,” the show the evening would have celebrated, will be on view from October 29 through February 7, 2021. The party has been cancelled twice before: once in 1963, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and in 2002, following the 9/11 attacks.

    The Met’s extended closure has already taken a devastating financial toll on the institution, which is predicting a $150 million shortfall. The museum laid off 81 employees and cut executive level pay in April. The institution did not respond to inquiries as to whether pushing back the reopening would necessitate additional layoffs or furloughs.

    The Met was one of the first museums in the country to shut its doors in response to the global health crisis. Other New York institutions will likely look to the Met as they craft their own plans to resume normal operations—even if that new normal requires temperature checks and face masks upon entry, with dramatically scaled-back capacity limits to allow for appropriate social distancing and other health considerations.

    This weekend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will become the first major US institution to reopenfollowing in the footsteps of museums in Asia and Europe. As the epicenter of the US outbreak, New York City is being extremely cautious in its reopening plans.

    “The Met has endured much in its 150 years, and today continues as a beacon of hope for the future,” said Met president and CEO Daniel H. Weiss in a statement. “This museum is also a profound reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the power of art to offer comfort, inspiration, and community. As we endure these challenging and uncertain times, we are encouraged by looking forward to the day when we can once again welcome all to enjoy the Met’s collection and exhibitions.”

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  • May 20, 2020 4:35 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Pinnacol Assurance

    Colorado businesses are beginning the gradual transition from pandemic-induced closings to reentry mode. 

    While every business must make changes to reopen safely, there’s no single approach that will work for everyone. Employers must stay flexible and focused. 

    “This will be a continuous improvement process — not something where you set up your plan, open your doors and you’re ready to go,”says Jon Vonder Haar, safety consultant at Pinnacol. “It will be constantly evolving. Guidance may change based on the information coming in.” 

    To help you prepare, we have put together tips for creating your reentry strategy, broken into four critical areas.                      

    ‍Who will the reopening impact? 

    Knowing who can report to work is critical to operations planning. Many workplaces can have only half of employees present under the Governor’s Safer at Home” order.

    Start by identifying vulnerable populations who remain under the stay-at-home order, such as workers overage 65 or those who have diabetes or heart conditions. You cannot compel these employees to return to on-site work, and you must continue to provide accommodations for them to work from home

    You should have the right equipment and support available to enable remote workers, such as storing key information off-site and creating a communication protocol.

    You should also offer flexible schedules or remote work opportunities to employees with eldercare or childcare responsibilities and to those who have a vulnerable individual in their household. 

    Once you know who can and can’t return to the work site, make adjustments that accommodate changes in work, such as: 

    • Assigning temporary duties to employees as appropriate.
    • Making training considerations for any employee taking on new or different tasks. This can mean you provide training for temporary assignments or according to new workplace practices (e.g., hand hygiene and cleaning/disinfecting).
    • Training returning workers in things such as the proper way to wash their hands. You may need to document these trainings, per new statewide and countywide policies. 
    • Reviewing leave benefits for employees at home and on the work site.                                

    Where will the reopening occur?

    Make your building a healthy environment where your team can thrive.

    Workplaces with more than 50 employees on-site must implement more strategies. Either develop a business policy or setup stations for temperature checks and symptom screenings, close your common areas, and implement mandatory cleaning and disinfection protocols. 

    When will the reopening happen?      

    Have a target date in mind to reopen. Consider the unique aspects of your operations while planning reopening. It could take hours or weeks to get ready. 

    “So much depends on the scope of the business’s operation,” notes Tom Jensen, OHST and senior safety consultant at Pinnacol. “Are they a small retailer with 1,000 square feet of space where everyone does the same job, or are they a larger business with multiple operations and types of work, with vehicles, tools and equipment?” 

    You may need to set new hours of operation if you lack the staff to maintain your old hours. Staggered starts and shifts can reduce the number of employees on-site at any given time. 

    Reduce peak traffic in and out of the facility by setting off-peak office hours, such as after 5 p.m. or before 8 a.m. This is one way to offer scheduling flexibility to vulnerable workers or those with a vulnerable person in the household.

    Eliminate shared workspaces if you can and assign equipment mindfully. The more people who use that one space or thing, the more you have to clean. 

    How will you lead the reopening? 

    Determining how to implement changes may be the most challenging aspect for many businesses. “Give different things a try and see what works. As mentioned earlier, this is a continuous improvement process,” Vonder Haar says. 

    To promote the health and safety of employees, employers must follow measures required by the public health order. These activities include: ‍

    Your coordinator can also study industry-specific guidance and requirements from the CDPHE, which cover: 

    • Critical and noncritical retail.
    • Field services.
    • Noncritical office-based businesses and offices.
    • Personal services.
    • Limited health care settings, such as medical, dental and veterinary.
    • Non-critical manufacturing

    Your coordinator can also study industry-specific guidance and requirements from the CDPHE.

    Considerations for customers and vendors

    In addition to looking out for the safety of your employees, you also need to account for customers, patients or vendors who come through your doors. 

    Eliminate direct contact when possible by using electronic correspondence, no-touch trash containers, gloves and masks, and contactless payment methods. Other precautions include: 

    • Setting up hand sanitizer dispensers at entrances.
    • Dedicating hours for vulnerable individuals only.
    • Screening visitors for symptoms before they enter.

    “This whole process can be confusing and difficult,” Jensen says. Ask Pinnacol if you aren’t sure about something, such as whether a stated guidance is a requirement or a suggestion. 

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