Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday, the next stage in easing the COVID-19 lockdown could include the reopening of Museums and Galleries. This would be possible as soon as 1st June.
This is a very welcome and important step – Freya Simms LAPADA
Johnson’s roadmap identifies galleries and auction houses as non-essential retail businesses making up a part of phase two of the easing of closures.
The Art Newspaper summarised that art trade associations including Lapada, the Society for London Art Dealers (Slad), and The British Art Market Federation (BAMF) have been lobbying to be recognised as “non-essential retail” in phase two of the lockdown strategy. However, museums may have to wait until phase three in July.
This easing of restrictions means that auction-house staff and gallerists will be able to mix with customers on private property, so long as sensible social distancing measures are in place. Museums and other large venues would be part of a third phase, and not allowed to reopen before 4th July.
Freya Simms, the chief executive of LAPADA, the UK-based association of art and antique dealers, told Artnet News; “The art market is a significant contributor to the UK economy, and I am pleased that the UK government has recognised this with galleries and auction houses being included in phase 2 of easing the lockdown. She added, “This is a very welcome and important step that will help ease the much-needed road to recovery in a market that has been on pause.”
Auction houses would be allowed to photograph and catalogue items as long as social distancing was in place and members of the public would be allowed to view lots as long as customers keep a two metres distance. This could also have implications on private galleries setting up a queuing system with distancing enforcement.
Last week Germany reopened museums, galleries and gardens with social distancing rules. Safety measures greeted first visitors to German venues after the six-week lockdown. Most London galleries, it is hoped, will re-open in June, by appointment only, in order to kickstart the industry. It is unlikely that museums will be up to admissions capacity before the New Year.