Museums in Italy Are Finally Reopening, But the Country’s Art Market Is Still Under Threat From the Coronavirus

Dealers in the country are trying to stay optimistic.

The Duomo of Milan. Photo by Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Museums in Italy, a country hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, are cautiously reopening even as visitors are being advised to stand more than three feet apart from one another in the galleries and as they stand in line at ticket offices. 

A spokesperson for the Pirelli HangerBiocca in Milan, one of the the cities hit hardest by the virus, tells Artnet News that although it has reopened, the museum has suspended group tours and children’s workshops as a precaution.

“Our spaces are huge,” so it is less of a problem for people to stand one meter apart from each other, he said.

Outside Turin, the Castello di Rivoli, one of Italy’s leading Modern and contemporary art museums, was opening three major exhibitions as the museum shutdown was mandated. Coincidentally, one of the exhibitions is survey of the Swiss collector Uli Sigg’s Chinese contemporary art collection—a irony not lost on the museum’s director, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

As the world braces and supports China’s efforts to contain a virus, we in the field of culture are doing our best to support maximum cultural exchange,” she said in a statement. 

Milan’s Fondazione Prada, meanwhile, reopened on Monday. Along with other institutions, it had been forced closed on Sunday, February 23, when the Italian government and the region’s authorities mandated precautionary measures. The private museum on the industrial edge of Milan has suspended its cinema program and children’s activities for the time being.

The Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Milan, which is also now receiving visitors, warns the public that access to certain rooms may be restricted.

An Anxious Market

Italy has quickly become a hot spot for the coronavirus in Europe. More than 70 people have died in the country, which has had more than 2,200 confirmed cases. The nation’s universities and schools will shutter tomorrow until mid-March as a precautionary measure, officials announced today. People are being urged not to hug, kiss, or shake hands as greetings. The Venice Architecture Biennale announced today that its opening has been pushed back from late May until August 29 because of the virus.  

But members of the country’s art world sounded an optimistic and defiant note in recent days.

“I did not feel like a plague carrier,” says Eduardo Osculati of the Cardi Gallery, speaking from its Milan space. “I was at Maastricht yesterday and will go back next week,” he says of the TEFAF art fair. A solo show of the avant-garde Japanese abstractionist Shozo Shimamoto in Cardi’s Milan space has been unaffected by the public health emergency, he says.

Osculati hopes that miart, the international art fair in his hometown of Milan, can go ahead next month. “But only if it is safe for everyone,” he says. Organizers of the event are expected to make an announcement this week, and Artnet News understands that the fair’s parent company, Fiere Milano, is consulting the city and stakeholders before making a decision.

The international art market has weathered difficult moments in the past. Such times are challenging, but they also provide a fantastic opportunity for strong collectors,” Michele Casamonti, director of Tornabuoni Art, , which has galleries in Milan, Florence, London, and Paris, said from the TEFAF fair in Maastricht.

It is a good moment to be brave and buy.”

TEFAF Maastricht. Photo by Loraine Bodewes.

TEFAF Maastricht. Photo by Loraine Bodewes.

Artists’ Projects Under Threat

But the costs of postponements and cancellations go beyond lost sales.

The London-based artist and Turner-prize nominee Mike Nelson was due to present a continuation of his Tate Britain installation, The Asset Strippers, at Art Basel in Hong Kong with Galleria Franco Noero of Turin and neugerriemschneider of Berlin this month. That project and a planned residency for the artist at a Hong Kong university have been cancelled.

While Galleria Franco Noero will still present new solo shows in its two Turin spaces next week, the exhibiting artists, Sam Falls and Marape, will not be traveling from Los Angeles and Sao Paulo for their openings. 

But Isabella Noero sounded stoical about the situation.

“It is not in our control,” she says.

The Pirelli HangerBiocca’s solo show of the Paris-based, Chinese artist Chen Zhen, is going ahead as planned but a spokesman says that the private view in April will probably be postponed.

Meanwhile, a project by Olafur Eliasson at the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, commissioned by Massimiliano Gioni, has been posted until later in the year. The Collectivity Project was also due to open in April to coincide with miart. “The situation is constantly evolving in Italy and many institutions are in the process of having to make decisions as we speak,” Gioni says.



Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics