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  • Nov 06, 2020

Sweeping Covid-19 Closures in Europe as Asia Pacific Stays Open

Following the annoucement of another national lockdown, Paris’s Louvre closed on October 29, 2020, and will remain closed until at least December 1. Image via Instagram.

Amid a second wave of national lockdowns across the United Kingdom and Europe, cultural centers have been shuttering again in the past week as countries witness a re-surge in Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region, art spaces remain open to the public under ongoing health related regulations.

France’s second national lockdown begins today; the country surpassed one million cases on October 23. Following stay at home orders, non-essential public venues including museums and theaters will be closed until at least the end of the month. Institutions such as Paris’s Louvre and the Centre Pompidou have respectively announced that they will be closed until December 1.

In the UK, which has averaged almost 20,000 confirmed cases a day since mid-October, non-essential spaces including galleries, auction houses, and museums, have been closed since November 5, and will remain so until at least December 2.

Likewise, Germany imposed its lockdown on November 2, lasting until the end of the month, also impacting theaters and museums across the country. The Art Cologne art fair, originally postponed from April until mid-November, was forced to abandon its second attempt this year until April 2021.

Meanwhile, with 472,348 active cases as of today, Italy will impose a partial lockdown, while ongoing protests over the decision have been taking place throughout the country since mid-October. Theaters and other public venues will be closed indefinitely. The MAXXI, the National Museum for XXI Century Arts, was compelled to postpone the November 6 opening of its new venue in L'Aquila due to the prime ministerial decree that lasts through December 3. The Artissima art fair, which was reconceived as an event called Artissima Unplugged spread across three museums in Turin, has now also delayed its plans until at least early December.

On the other side of the globe, cultural institutions across Asia have largely stayed open under social distancing regulations. In China, the 13th Shanghai Biennale, “Bodies of Water,” curated by Andrés Jaque, is set to open its first part with a five-day symposium on November 10 at the Power Station of Art. Coinciding with the event is Shanghai’s marquee art week, which includes two art fairs West Bund Art & Design(November 11–15) and Art 021 Shanghai(November 12–15), both holding events in-person this year.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has emerged from its third-wave. While public gatherings are limited to six people, galleries and museums have been open since September. On November 2, the Hong Kong Museum of Art announced plans to resume normal hours, in time for its blockbuster group exhibition, “Botticelli and His Times - Masterworks from the Uffizi,” which opened in late October showcasing over 40 works on loan from Uffizi Galleries in Florence. 

Elsewhere in Asia, although Japan’s Covid-19 cases have been rising, totaling 104,964 as of November 5, institutions such as the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Tokyo’s National Art Center, and Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts have remained open since June, but require advanced bookings. Similarly, in South Korea, which has averaged over 100 daily reported cases since October 22, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) reopened on September 29, although all five branches in Seoul, Gwacheon, Deoksugung, and Cheongju, require bookings. In Thailand, which has also curbed the rise of Covid-19 cases, the second edition of Bangkok Art Biennale launched on October 29 amid ongoing anti-government protests in the city.

In Australia, emerging from its second wave, Melbourne lifted its months-long lockdown on October 27 with strict social-distancing measures intact. However, at time of writing, institutions such as the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and Buxton Contemporary remain closed indefinitely. Elsewhere in the country, other spaces such as Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), and Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia have remained open since their respective reopening’s in June after the country’s first wave. The country has witnessed a decline in Covid-19 cases since mid-August, and as of November 5, has a total of 27,634 cases.

Ariana Heffner is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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