French Museum Leaders Have Joined Forces to Petition President Macron to Let Them Reopen Next Month

With the end of lockdown in sight, museums want to be first to reopen.

The Louvre Museum in Paris. Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images.

Five associations of French museums have penned an open letter to the French president Emmanuel Macron asking to be able to reopen in mid-May.

The Federation of Contemporary Art Professionals (CIPAC), the French national committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and three other organizations wrote the letter, published in the French daily Le Figaro yesterday, expressing concern over the lack of communication on a date for reopening, and fear that the government might delay reopening museums until other kinds of cultural venues like cinemas and theaters can also get the green light.

French museums have been closed since the beginning of the second lockdown that began on October 30 last year. Leaning on the promise made by the culture minister Roselyne Bachelot earlier this year that museums and monuments would be prioritized once case numbers allow for reopening, they are hoping to reopen shortly after the third lockdown is due to end on May 2.

“The members of our organizations and networks, which represent a wide variety of museums and exhibition venues in France, are worried,” the letter states. “Worried about the situation linked to the pandemic, but also worried about the lack of information and dialogue in the last few weeks relating to the reopening schedule of cultural establishments.”

“We insistently ask for authorization to reopen the doors of our spaces in order to give back to art and culture the place they need to make society [work],” it continues, stressing how they have adapted to fit health measures, with “the strictest and scrupulous respect for protocols.”

The letter comes after Macron held a video conference with French mayors last week, in which he discussed his aim of reopening some outdoor terraces and cultural venues “around mid-May”, according to France Inter. The government’s spokesman, Gabriel Attal, reiterated this goal in a press conference today.

Seeking clarity on this point, the museums’ letter continues: “It was announced two months ago that museums and exhibition venues […] would be ‘the first to reopen’ as soon as a decline in Covid was assured. Where does this promise about an early reopening stand today?’”

Xavier Montagnon, general secretary of CIPAC, tells Artnet News that the letter was written ahead of last week’s council of ministers’ meeting: “We wished to aim as high as possible [by addressing the letter to Macron] because I think that the culture minister [Roselyne Bachelot] is on the same wavelength as us and wishes that cultural venues open as soon as possible too. I think the decision on reopening will be made higher up.”

Macron is expected to announce the conditions for reopening in the first week of May. The culture ministry is reportedly discussing the subject of reopening with professional bodies, and among the issues being explored is the maximum number of visitors to be allowed, depending on the size of the cultural venue.

Museums are poised and waiting for “the green light” from the culture ministry, a spokesman from the Centre Pompidou says. Should the first phases of reopening go smoothly without increasing the rate of infection, the government is expected to then envisage a gradual reopening of other sectors.

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