Commercial Art Galleries in Germany Must Close Again as the Government Mandates Stricter Lockdown Measures

Art galleries had dodged the earlier lockdown, which began in November.

Germany's government, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced another, stricter lockdown over the weekend. Germany has seen record numbers of daily new coronavirus infections and deaths in recent days. Photo by Rainer Keuenhof-Pool/Getty Images.

Germany is headed into another strict lockdown to beat back the coronavirus pandemic, and its entire art world will effectively be put on pause until the second week of January at the soonest.

In a special meeting held over the weekend, the heads of Germany’s 16 states took the major step to curb rising infection and death rates across the nation. With just two days warning, the country is going back into a lockdown nearly as severe as the one it endured in March. All non-essential shops will be closed, as well as schools, daycares, and museums, from Wednesday, December 16.

While commercial art galleries had dodged the lockdown “lite” that began in November because they were categorized as “retail spaces” and not cultural venues, now they must close until January 10 at the earliest. Previously, only museums, theaters, and other cultural venues had to close.

“Commercial galleries have been hit hard by government COVID-19 measures already since October and particularly in November,” says Berlin art dealer Thomas Schulte. “Art fairs, openings, and lectures, but also dinners and other social events, which are invaluable sales platforms for us, have vanished as a consequence.”

Art Cologne, Germany’s premier art fair, was supposed to take place in November, but was canceled due to lockdown rules that month. Gatherings of more than 5 people from two households were not allowed, dashing any prospect for in-person events.

The necessary changes have wreaked havoc on exhibition schedules. Schulte will close two shows, by Albrecht Schnider and Alfredo Jaar, that had opened in mid-November.

“This just now feels like the last nail in the coffin,” Schulte says.

In France, where a lockdown forcing museums to close was meant to lift on December 15, rising coronavirus infection rates have forced the government to extend that date until January 7 at the earliest. From Wednesday, December 16, museums in London will have to close again only two weeks after reopening.

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