A snapshot of European museum reopening: from Austria to Poland 4 Jun 2020

The Art Newspaper has published short overviews of the experience of five museums across Europe that have recently reopened, from the Royal Castle in Warsaw, to Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art. The range of experience shows that:

  • All are observing some form of social distancing, but that varies by country: at the Brandenburg State Museum of Modern Art the 1.5m distance is reinforced by poles and ribbons to carry, plus floor markings; in Poland it is 2m and Austria stipulates 10sq m per visitor.
  • Audiences are enthusiastically returning – the Institut Giacometti in France reports being sold out of its timed tickets for the first three days after reopening. Its President Catherine Grenier says “The interest was immediate—people were waiting for direct contact with art again”.
  • However, the number of visitors is reduced to less than a quarter of previous numbers (and sometimes much less) by the new capacity limits.
  • Beyond the now familiar gloves, hand sanitiser and plexiglass, there have been some less widely reported approaches to containing the virus. The Royal Castle has switched off its ventilation as a possible risk factor and the Institut Giacometti is now opening 11am – 7pm to avoid putting pressure on rush hour traffic.
  • The Brandenburg Museum has made an early start in addressing the situation in displays, using its collection to look at themes of handshakes, masks and gloves.
  • The New York Times also picks up on more visceral reactions to the new experience of museums in Europe: one visitor to the Berlinische Galerie complains that with the current constraints ‘you can’t relax when you look at the images, you can’t breathe’, while one museum professional is more optimistic: ‘I think the joy that people will get from being back in the museum will be bigger than the inconvenience.’
  • Meanwhile, Florence Cathedral is issuing its visitors with lanyards which will vibrate and light up if they come to close to others.

Art Newspaper, Smithsonian Magazine (Florence Cathedral), Art Newspaper (Brandenburg State Museum), New York Times