When blockbusters are not seen, French museums ask to reopen “for an hour, a day, a week”

France’s Covid-affected museums have appealed to the government to allow them to reopen – even if only briefly – which shows that it would normally attract huge crowds to come and go without anyone seeing them.

It was meant to be a highlight in the art calendar: 230 works by the Impressionist master Henri Matisse were collected at France’s leading modern art museum to celebrate 150 years since his birth.

However, due to the pandemic, the show at the Pompidou Center in Paris remained open for just 10 days after it began in October, and it looks very unlikely to resume before the paintings are repackaged at the end of February.

Only 17,000 people secured a ticket on time – an abysmal figure for a museum that attracts more than three million visitors each year during normal hours.

“For an artist who was definitely not melancholic, this is something very melancholic,” Pompidou curator Aurélie Verdier told AFP.

This week, desperate museums demanded a chance to reopen – albeit only partially – with two petitions signed by the government by hundreds in industry and a wider art community.

“For an hour, a day, a week or a month – let’s open our doors again, even if we have to close them again in the event of a new shutdown,” it said in a petition.

Holds the breath up

The museum had hoped to be able to reopen in December when the last lock-in period ended, but as with restaurants, theaters and cinemas, they have been ordered to close because the level of infection remains stubbornly high.

Some exhibitions – for example a photo exhibition at the Grand Palais with Man Ray, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank – have been and gone without anyone having seen them.

Many performances can not extend or postpone their dates, because the paintings are booked elsewhere around the world or must provide space for the next exhibition, always planned years in advance.

“It’s a nightmare. The dates (to open and close) change endlessly,” says Christophe Leribault of the Petit Palais, where an ambitious exhibition of Danish art was delayed and finally only four weeks of public screenings were successful.

“I managed to negotiate some extensions. But after a year we had to send in the paintings to make room for the next show of the great Italian painter Giovanni Boldoni, while we were worried that his work could be blocked in other exhibitions in Italy, Sa Leribault.

The petitioners say they are ready to accept tougher health protocols and even more limited numbers than during the short summer break – following the example of other countries such as Italy, which has partially reopened many cultural sites.

They say that art is a powerful way to keep people in the mood, especially the young people who have been denied much of their social life for almost a year.

“Museums are without a doubt the places where human interaction and the risk of contamination are least proven,” says another petition published in the French newspaper Le Monde this week and signed by many public figures, including the singer and former first lady Carla Bruni .

It is the extra complaint that small, private galleries have been reopened and are often packed with people in desperate search of diversion.

( Jowharwith AFP)