There are impatient people like Bruno Monnier, president of Culturespaces, “Ready to reopen to the public from 1er June » the 14 museums and monuments that it manages throughout France, with a health protocol imposed by the coronavirus. “We have guards. And museums are neither confined places like cinemas or theaters, nor comparable to major festivals ”, he argues.
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And there are the cautious ones, like the collector François Pinault, who preferred to postpone the opening of the Bourse de commerce, his new place of exhibition in Paris… until spring 2021. Between the two, the majority of museum owners navigate in great uncertainty, awaiting a green light from the government.
In Germany, museums were allowed to reopen this week in Brandenburg, and on May 4 in Berlin. In France, “The museums will remain closed” to the public on May 11, warned President Macron. The Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, asked all the heads of public establishments – mainly the major Parisian museums and the area of Versailles – to submit a “Recovery and deconfinement plan” before the end of April.
“We were suggested to work on two hypotheses: a recovery in July or September. We all hope, of course, to reopen this summer. But it is not certain that we will be given a single recovery date because, depending on the location, the constraints are very different “, explains Jérôme Bastianelli, interim president of the Musée du Quai-Branly.
Art galleries slated to open in mid-May
The art galleries are the best, which could reopen on May 11, like some shops. “Our spaces are limited, the visitors are few. They do not pay entry and do not touch the works. All the conditions for a safe reception are met “, argues Marion Papillon, president of the Professional Committee of Art Galleries (CPGA).
It’s urgent. These private structures, often small, have taken a hard hit from the cancellation of fairs and the lack of sales this spring. According to a CPGA study, without a recovery plan, a third of them could lower the curtain in 2020.
The museums will only bring back small teams in mid-May. At the Louvre, transfers of works to the Liévin reserves and several sites will resume, such as work on the caterpillar at the Center Pompidou. The Paris Historical Museum, Carnavalet, which is due to complete its restoration, will not reopen until December.
Negotiations with unions
Discussions are starting with the unions on the health conditions of this recovery, as in the Louvre, where the agents had exercised their right of withdrawal from 1er March. To the reception and surveillance staff, who will not be able to resume work before July, Sylvie Ramond, director of the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon, would like to “Offer to take art history training in our large auditorium. Most are very attached to our collections and suffer from being confined ”.
His exhibition “Picasso, bathers, bathers”, which was due to open in mid-March, is just waiting to be revealed to the public. Like the drawings from the Prat collection at the Petit Palais, the exhibition “James Tissot” at the Musée d’Orsay, “Christo” at the Center Pompidou, the “Ardent Cities” at the Musée de Caen, etc.
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Negotiations are well underway to extend the loans of these works as much as possible throughout the summer. “” Christo “will last until September 30. We also hope to open the exhibition “Matisse like a novel” this summer. As a result, those scheduled for the start of the school year on Charles Ray and Baselitz are postponed. It’s an infernal puzzle ”, admits Bernard Blistène, director of the National Museum of Modern Art at the Center Pompidou.
Avoid canceling an exhibition at all costs
On the other hand, the exhibitions which were not attached and linked to international loans had to be postponed. With an obsession shared by all, “Avoid outright cancellation” so as not to lose the job done. At the Louvre, exhibitions of Italian Renaissance sculptures and of the German painter Altdorfer are postponed until autumn, like that of the Musée du Quai-Branly on the Olmecs, “Hoping that in October flights with Mexico will resume”, notes Jérôme Bastianelli. “Our exhibitions are scheduled three years in advance, and we must be careful not to create a domino effect, with cascading reports”, underlines Delphine Lévy, director of the museums of the City of Paris.
It will remain to reassure the public. Should we set up a reduced gauge, compulsory reservations, an imposed circuit to avoid crossings, refuse groups, school groups? Everyone develops hypotheses, pending instructions from the public authorities. At the Louvre or Versailles, the absence of foreign tourists (from 70 to 80% of the public), cruel for ticketing, will facilitate a recovery my no troppo.
But will Catherine Pégard, at Versailles, be able to reopen immediately the narrow circuit of large apartments or only the park at first? “This particular period can be a good opportunity to reconnect with our local audience, sometimes discouraged by the crowd of tourists”, observes a curator of the Louvre. “And invent another form of relationship with visitors”, adds Bernard Blistène, who imagines “Tours-debates on contemporary art”.
Support for living artists
In the meantime, confinement is severely affecting revenue: – 2.5 million euros per month at Paris-Museums, – 1.3 million euros at Beaubourg for ticketing alone, – 310,000 € per month at the Musée de Lyon …
There is also the fate of living artists, sometimes very precarious by confinement. Friends of the Center Pompidou, who had to cancel their annual dinner, will reallocate all the money raised (almost € 400,000) to the purchase of works under € 30,000. “For our acquisitions, the watchword is to favor the stage in France”, specifies Bernard Blistène.
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“We are going to give more support to galleries and artists in the regions”, added Pascal Neveux, director of the Contemporary Art Fund of the Paca region and president of the Federation of Professionals of Contemporary Art. At the Caen Museum of Fine Arts, the director, Emmanuelle Delapierre, would also like to invite Norman artists to exhibit. Solidarity reflexes, essential in times of crisis.