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  • Feb 27, 2020

Japanese Museums and Art Events Impacted by Covid-19

* Last updated February 28, 2020.

As confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to increase within Japan, with 189 cases and three deaths at the time of writing (excluding those reported on the Diamond Princess cruise ship) mainly at Hokkaido, the greater Tokyo area, and Nagoya, impacts on the country’s art scene are being felt. Following prime minister Shinzo Abe’s speech on February 25 at the 13th meeting of the novel coronavirus response headquarters, during which he escalated the urgency of the situation by saying “now is truly the critical moment in order to contain the outbreak swiftly,” public museums across Japan responded by announcing closures.

As reported by Bijutsu TechoTokyo National Museum, Kyoto National Museum, Nara National Museum, and Kyushu National Museum have temporarily shuttered their spaces from February 27, while contemporary and modern art museums including Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), National Museum of Western Art (NMWA), National Art Center Tokyo (NACT), National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (MoMAK), and National Museum of Art Osaka (NMAO) will be closed from February 29 until at least mid-March.

On February 28, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo also announced its closure from February 29 to March 13. The venue's Tokyo City View observation deck and rooftop at the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower are subject to the same change.

Meanwhile, events and programs at Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art and Kumamoto’s Contemporary Art Museum have been suspended until the end of March. The private Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art in Kyoto has been closed since last week.

Art fairs are also affected. The boutique art fair Art in Park Hotel Tokyo, scheduled for March 19–21, has been postponed to September 25–27 according to its announcement on February 20. Artists’ Fair Kyoto, originally slated to run from February 28 to March 1 at the Museum of Kyoto Annex and other locations, has also been canceled, though a series of satellite exhibitions titled “Blowball” will continue across various galleries, hostels, and shops within the city. However, the country’s largest annual art fair, Art Fair Tokyo, will run as planned from March 19–22 at Tokyo International Forum, with precautionary measures in force including the provision of alcohol hand sanitizers at the entrance in addition to masks for staff.

Since the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Wuhan in December, the disease has spread across six continents. More than 80,000 cases and 2,700 deaths have been confirmed at the time of writing.

Pamela Wong is ArtAsiaPacific’s assistant editor. 

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