Four of Boston’s Top Art Museums Have Made a Joint Decision to Close Indefinitely as the Coronavirus Pandemic Spreads

The museums say they must prioritize public health in a critical moment.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Four Boston art museums have collectively decided to temporarily close amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

The Harvard Art MuseumsInstitute of Contemporary ArtIsabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will all be closed beginning tomorrow.

The news comes on the heels of similar announcements from two major New York City art institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection.

The Met, which has two staffers who have been exhibiting flu-like symptoms, plans to make an announcement early next week about when it might reopen. The five other museums will be closed indefinitely.

“This decision was made collaboratively as a response to ensure the health and safety of our staff, our visitors, and our community,” the directors of the four Boston museums said in a joint statement.

The MFA opened a major Lucian Freud show at the beginning of the month, and is scheduled to open “Monet and Boston: Lasting Impressions” on April 18. The ICA has current shows of Sterling Ruby, Tschablala Self, and Carolina Caycedo, as well as a blockbuster Yayoi Kusama exhibition and and an Eva LeWitt show slated for March 28.

Harvard has shows of African ceramics and Edo-period Japanese art, while the Gardner has John Singer Sargent, Lorraine O’Grady, and Adam Pendleton exhibitions.

“The CDC has clearly communicated that one of the most effective measures for controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is social distancing,” the museums’ statement continued. “Based on that recommendation, we feel it is our ethical responsibility to put the common good ahead of any one individual or institution. We know we are stronger together.”

Yesterday, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Somerville, Massachusetts, announced that it would close indefinitely after two of its employees attended a conference where others with the coronavirus were in attendance.

The recent spate of closures in the US also includes the Henry Art Gallery and Frye Art Museum in Seattle; the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas; and the Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in Cold Spring, New York.

Previously, institutions in China, Japan, South Korea, and Italy also closed as the outbreak worsened in those countries. Organizations for art professionals have begun issuing guidelines on how to respond to the crisis.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History has joined the art museums in closing its doors.


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