In These 12 Pictures of Masked Museum Visitors, Photographers Are Trying Hard—Really Hard—to Capture the Current Moment

Is the highly symbolic photo of the masked art-museum visitor an emerging genre? Decide for yourself.

A visitor looks at a portrait painting depicting Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan during an art exhibition on novel coronavirus prevention at National Museum of China. (Photo by Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images)
A visitor looks at a portrait painting depicting Chinese respiratory specialist Zhong Nanshan during an art exhibition at the National Museum of China. (Photo by Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images)

If you follow the art news—and we at Artnet News really hope you do!—you probably have been seeing a lot of photos of the genre we call “people in masks looking at art.”

As museums around the world cautiously reopen or contemplate reopening, just what kind of health-and-safety measures each one puts into place is an important story. But then there’s also the Big Story, the “How We Live Now” story—and nothing speaks to that feeling in the art world at the moment quite like “people in masks looking at art.”

Below, we’ve picked out a few of the news pics we’ve come across where it seems like the photographer is shooting for symbolism, complete with our title for the kind of story that it is just crying out to illustrate.

 

“These Are Surreal Times in the Museum World”

A man wearing a face mask stands next to a portrait of Spanish artist Salvador Dali on the reopening day of the Salvador Dali museum in Figueras, Spain. (Photo by Louis Gene/AFP, via Getty Images)

A man wearing a face mask stands next to a portrait of Spanish artist Salvador Dali on the reopening day of the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueras, Spain. (Photo by Louis Gene/AFP, via Getty Images)

 

“Even Masks Will Not Stop People From Taking Selfies With Art”

Visitors wearing face masks take a selfie with the painting of "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo Da Vinci at the Louvre museum. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Visitors wearing face masks take a selfie with the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

 

“Hot New Artgoing Activity: Wondering What Other Visitors Look Like Under Their Masks”

A visitor wearing a face mask walks by a piece of artwork by Andy Warhol during an exhibition at Tate Modern art gallery in London. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty)

A visitor wearing a face mask walks by a work by Andy Warhol during an exhibition at Tate Modern in London. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty)

 

“There Is a Certain Element of Fashion When It Comes to Masks in the Museum”

A visitor wearing a protective face mask looks at paintings at the State Tretyakov Gallery as the gallery opened following the easing of measures against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Moscow on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar Silkoff / AFP via Getty Images)

A visitor looks at paintings at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow on July 3, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar Silkoff / AFP via Getty Images)

“Art Is Facing a Real Onslaught”

 A visitor wearing a face mask due walks across a floor covered in images of to-scale bombs from World War one to the present day during "History of Bombs" by artist Al Weiwei at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.)

A visitor wearing a face mask at the Imperial War Museum in London. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images.)

 

“Culture Is Lost in the Maze of Safety Measures”

A tour group of two in the Old North Church in Boston on July 24, 2020. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A tour group of two in the Old North Church in Boston on July 24, 2020. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

“Museums Are in a Pinch”

A museum patron at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston's Seaport District on July 13, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A museum patron at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston’s Seaport District on July 13, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

 

“Museums Feel Pretty Weird Right Now”

A woman with a face shield on visits the State Hermitage Museum reopening with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions lifted. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

A woman with a face shield on visits the State Hermitage Museum reopening. Peter Kovalev/TASS (Photo by Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

 

“Museums Will Look Different in the Future”

A visitor wearing face masks visit the recently reopened Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California, July 1, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

A visitor wearing a face mask visits the recently reopened Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles on July 1, 2020. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

 

“Art Is Taking a Long Hard Look in the Mirror”

Visitors in face masks view an exhibition in the State Historical Museum in Moscow during the pandemic. (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan/TASS via Getty Images)

Visitors in face masks view an exhibition at the State Historical Museum in Moscow. (Photo by Artyom Geodakyan/TASS via Getty Images)

 

“Society Still Believes in Museums”

A couple wearing face masks are seen looking a religious cross, as part of the exhibition at Aduana Museum in Spain. (Photo by Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A couple wearing face masks are seen looking a religious cross at the Palacio de la Aduana in Spain. (Photo by Jesus Merida/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

“Museums: Still Kooky”

A visitor enjoying a new exhibition "Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi" during the reopening of Somerset House on July 16, 2020 in London.(Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

A visitor enjoying a new exhibition “Mushrooms: The art, design and future of fungi” during the reopening of Somerset House on July 16, 2020 in London. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)


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