Austria Will Allow Museums to Reopen in Mid-May, Making It Among the First European Countries to Ease Restrictions on Art Institutions

Meanwhile, museums in China have been gradually reopening their doors as well.  

Vienna's Belvedere Museum. Photo by Belvedere, Wien, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria license.

Museums and other cultural venues in Austria will be allowed to reopen in mid-May, the country’s government announced today. And when they do, they’ll be among the first major institutions in Europe to reopen their doors after going into lockdown to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus last month. 

As of today, Austria counts more than 14,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 431 deaths. The number of new cases has declined significantly since late March, when the country was experiencing nearly 1,000 new diagnoses each day. Today, that number is down to the low hundreds—or less than one percent. 

The country began easing its restrictions earlier this week, as small shops were allowed to reopen. Mid-sized stores and other businesses will follow on May 1, while “presentation venues in the artistic and cultural field” and “definitely museums” will be given the go-ahead in the middle of the month, said Austria’s Vice Chancellor, Werner Kogler, in a news conference. An exact date for the proposed reopenings has not yet been set. 

State-run institutions such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Belvedere, home to Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece The Kiss, have agreed to postpone their openings to July 1.

The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Image courtesy of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, photo by Bian Jie.

The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. Image courtesy of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, photo by Bian Jie.

Meanwhile, museums in China are also planning their own returns to normalcy. The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing announced this week that it will again open its doors for the first time in four months, on May 21. 

To inaugurate the occasion, the museum will mount “Meditations in an Emergency,” an exhibition conceived in response to the global health crisis, featuring 20 artists from China.

“‘Meditations in an Emergency’ understands implicitly that it will be seen by people wearing masks, standing two meters apart from one another,” reads the description for the show. “People whose temperatures have just been measured and do not exceed 37.2 degrees centigrade. People whose data trails can verify that they have been in Beijing for the last 14 days.” 

The show will be the first held in 2020 for the UCCA, which, like institutions across the world, has had to dramatically reconfigure its calendar in the wake of the crisis. All of the UCCA’s shows originally scheduled for this time, including a solo exhibition for artist Cao Fei and a group show that looks at the downtown New York art scene in the 1980s, have been postponed to 2021, according to The Art Newspaper

Other venues in the country such as the China Art Museum, the Power Station of Art, and the Shanghai Museum have been open since mid-March, when China first saw declining COVID numbers.

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