France Will Allow Museums and Galleries to Reopen Next Month. Some Dealers Say It’s Still Not Soon Enough

The country will lift restrictions starting May 19.

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

French President Emmanuel Macron has given the green light for museums and other cultural businesses in France to reopen starting May 19.

In a highly anticipated announcement leaked in French newspapers today, Macron said that the country, which has been in the throes of its third national lockdown since March, will begin reopening in stages from mid-May.

Macron is expected to officially present the plan tomorrow, but several French outlets, including Le Parisien, published a preview of the roadmap today and quoed the president: “From May 19, we must rediscover our French way of life, while remaining prudent and responsible: our conviviality, our culture, sports.”

Museums, which have been closed since October, will finally get to reopen their doors, alongside other cultural spaces such as theaters, cinemas, and concert halls, with limited capacity. Non-essential retail, which includes commercial galleries, and outdoor dining, will also resume then.

The French will have to wait for indoor dining, as well as the return to offices and some public events, until the next phase of reopening on June 9, when the president has also announced plans to introduce a pass sanitaire (a health passport) that could be used to access certain events, as well as allow for the resumption of foreign tourism in France.

The country’s unpopular 7 p.m. curfew, will also be gradually eased along the same timeline. From May 19, it will be extended to 9 p.m., on June 9 to 11 p.m., and will be being lifted at the end of June.

French museums have been agitating to reopen since they were forced to shut down last fall. Last week, five associations of French museums penned an open letter to Macron demanding clarity on a schedule for reopening. Contacted by Artnet News, a spokesperson for the Musée d’Orsay said the museum was waiting for further information before commenting on the news.

Meanwhile, commercial galleries have been petitioning the government to allow them to reopen, citing unfair competition with auction houses, which have been allowed to continue operating during the latest lockdown. 

Marion Papillon, a gallerist and head of the French gallery association Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art, told Artnet News that while she is happy to finally have a date for reopening, she is “dismayed” that it is so late in May. Non-essential businesses had been hoping to reopen around May 10, and the latest news means that the current lockdown on business will ultimately be even longer than the devastating lockdown last year.

“It’s unacceptable that they didn’t even offer any solutions to correct the unfair competition given to auction houses,” she said. “Galleries are not places that attract crowds, and we can obey the health restrictions to the letter, so it’s really yet another instance of them not taking into account our special circumstances.”


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