“Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. The decisions people and governments take in the next few weeks will probably shape the world for years to come. They will shape not just our healthcare systems but also our economy, politics and culture. We must act quickly and decisively. We should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions. When choosing between alternatives, we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes. Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.”
— Quoted from “Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus”
(Published on Financial Times on 20th March, 2020)
Robert E. Clark Jr. poses for "Words at the Window: Self Isolation and The Coronavirus" by Stephen Lovekin. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
On April 8, the lifting of lockdown imposed on the city Wuhan indicates that China is gradually recovering from the impact of the pandemic to normal life and work. However, the international art world is suffering from an increasingly severe situation with COVID-19, which forces them to confront the impact and changes. Under this circumstance, “furlough,” “staff layoffs,” and “temporary or permanent closure” are becoming buzzwords discussed by the art communities. Recently, the news that The San Francisco Institute (SFAI) with nearly 150 years history will suspend classes after graduation in May and expects possible support for revival that is to be revealed a touchy situation within the art field across the world. In fact, the broad practice of the scheme of furloughing to deal with the pandemic within diverse art institutions also presents an acute impact on art industries globally.
On April 8, the lifting of lockdown imposed on the city Wuhan. Photo by Chen Zhuo, China Daily
A Glance of Art Institutions in the U.S.:
Furlough and Layoffs across various institutions
In according with artnet news’ report on March 31, 2020, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) was forced to make drastic staff cuts amid the escalating global health crisis. With the museum shuttered, SFMOMA laid off 135 on-call staff, meaning that more than 200 remained to maintain the museum’s mission (186 employees plus the nearly three dozen newly part-time workers). In addition, SFMOMA leadership will also take a pay reduction. The director Neal Benezra is taking a 50 percent salary reduction for the duration of their furlough, according to a representative.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)
According to Los Angeles Times’ report on April 1,2020, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), after laying off all 97 part-time employees last week, notified on Wednesday that almost all full-time employees — 69 staffers — are taking a full or partial furlough or a significant salary reduction effective Friday. Klaus Biesenbach, director of MOCA since October 2018, will take the largest pay cut.
It is known that MOCA is supported mostly by individuals, Biesenbach said in the email that they have to navigate this crisis in their own way. Unlike other Los Angeles museum with a wealthy benefactor behind it, MOCA could be more vulnerable during this “slow-burning catastrophe.”
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: CTG/SF.
Within the same week, ARTnews reported that on Thursday afternoon, the Whitney Museum in New York informed staff that layoffs were imminent because of a budget reduction spurred on by the coronavirus pandemic. Since the museum has laid off 76 employees, most of whom in visitor services–related roles as they would no longer be able to fulfill their duties during the shutdown.
Museum director Adam Weinberg said in an email to employees, “our internal discussions throughout have focused on two goals: taking care of as many of our staff as we can for as long as we can, since you are the lifeblood of this institution; and ensuring that the Whitney will be able to stand strong when this crisis ends.” He added that the museum intends to rehire staff when it reopens. According to ARTnews, the announcement made by the Whitney Museum marks the first round of layoffs for one of New York’s major museums, which is also a sign that more reductions could be on the horizon.
After this article was published, another major New York institution, the New Museum, also announced a widespread furlough of staff. Nearly one-third of its 150 staff members have been cut, resulting in 41 full- and part-time workers losing their jobs in every department.
More similar news within the museums is filed in the U.S. The Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh announced a temporary furlough of staff and temporary pay reductions; and the Cleveland Museum said it would immediately furlough all part-time staff and temporarily lay off a portion of its unionized staff, including security guards. In addition, Indianapolis Contemporary announced a plan to close on April 3, 2020.
A sign outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 13, 2020. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.
Exterior view of The Museum of Modern Art, 53rd Street Entrance Canopy (photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of MoMA)
The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Photo: Ken Lund/Flickr.
Indianapolis Contemporary announced a plan to close.
At the same time, Canada, which is adjacent to the United States, has begun to adopt assistance measures in the field of culture and art. Canada Council for the Arts announced on March 30 that it will offer approximately $60 million which will be issued in advance from May 4 to help 1,100 “core funded organizations” and ensure their cash flow and they can address outstanding payments to the artists and cultural workers they employ. Considering the changes that creators, organizations and their stakeholders will face the effects of the pandemic in the following days and weeks, the Council will continue to work closely with the Canadian Heritage to seek supporting mechanisms specially addressed to Canada’s arts ecosystem.
A Small Peak into European Countries:
Furlough, Cancellations of Events, Saving Culture and Emergency Funding Packages
Besides the U.S., art and cultural industries in European countries are also confronting touchy situations during the pandemic. The Network of European Museum Organizations has carried out a survey to examine how the impact of the corona crisis has been severe on museums all over Europe. The survey covers over 650 museums from 41 countries including those from the US, Iran and all 27 EU member states. The Preliminary results indicate that museums in touristic regions are experiencing an income loss of 75-80%, while the loss for art institutions including Rijksmuseum, the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, and the Stedelijk Museum are between €100,000-600,000 per week. The survey will remain until 17 April as NEMO will continue to monitor the changes and compare results during a longer period.
The pandemic of COVID-19 has forced most of the major auction houses to close their offices worldwide and Sotheby’s has announced that staff are being furloughed, having pay cuts or layoffs and this is across its global offices. According to the report by Wall Street, Sotheby’s CEO Charles F. Stewart revealed that the company will furlough 200 employees (12 percent of its staff members, 1700 employees). A 20 percent pay cut will be carried out for Sotheby’s remaining employees in the U.S. and the U.K, and these jobs will be retained and an additional 10 percent pay cut for executives. The overtime pay and performance-based incentive compensation will be temporarily suspended.
Sotheby (Hong Kong)
Meanwhile, Christie’s also announced that it would start furloughing staff members based in Europe. It will lay off some temporary outside contractors and enact a voluntary salary sacrifice for a segment of the company’s highest-earning employees.
According to the report by the Art Newspaper on April 9, the coronavirus pandemic might directly cause a third of French galleries to close before the end of 2020, it’s based on the survey released by Comité professionnel des galeries d’art. The economic damage for 279 of its members in this trade association will reach a total loss of €148 million from March through to June.
The Louvre in Paris is closed for a second day after the French government banned indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people Photo: Pedro Szekely
The world's most visited museum, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, was closed "until further notice" on 13 March Photo- AP Photo/Thibault Camus
Leaders from the art world in Italy jointly signed a petition to call for a “national fund for culture” to be established by the Italian government in the wake of coronavirus crisis to “save Italian culture.” Signatories included leaders at the MaXXI Museum in Rome and Venice’s civic museums, the artist Paola Pivi, Roberto Cicutto (the president of the Venice Biennale parent organisation) and Paola Antonelli (the senior curator of design and architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York). The petition was launched by the culture advocacy group Federculture which states that, “we have to make Italian culture live, to give it oxygen…the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis on the vast world of cultural enterprise are extreme and could be fatal”.
The Uffizi Museum in Florence. Photo by Michelle Maria, via Wikimedia Commons.
MAXXI Museum (2014). Courtesy of Antonella Profeta and Flickr.
Inside the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (Tomasz Baranowski/Flickr)
The National Trust, a U.K. charitable foundation that watches over some of the nation's most impressive historic homes and gardens, has had to cut the vast majority of its 14,000 members of staff. According to various reports by British publications, the trust has decided to furlough approximately 11,200 individuals.
When it comes to art events in the U,K., according to The List’s review, for the first time in its history, the Edinburgh Art Festival will not go ahead this year. In light of the current COVID 19-pandemic and the risks posed by it, the organisers have made the difficult decision to cancel the Festival's 2020 event. Meanwhile, the five major August Festivals in Edinburgh have decided to take the inevitable step and cancel their events for this year.
Shutdown-Tate Modern is one of the many London galleries closed to the public
The Arts Council, London, United Kingdom. Photo by View Pictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images.
To deal with the crisis in the art world in the U,K., Arts Council England is making £160 million of emergency funding available to support both organisations and individuals. By doing so, Arts Council England intends to ensure people and organisations that make up their arts, museums and libraries are protected during the coronavirus crisis. Arts Council England regard it as their number one priority.
Asian View: Where is the destination of “temporary closure?”
When the eyes were once again focused on Asia, none of our Asian neighbours were spared under the pandemic. Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo has released a recent notice of temporary closure to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on April 8. It will be temporarily close until May 6, 2020 and the period of closure may change as it depends on evolving circumstances. Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art will be temporarily closed until April 11 but the period of closure may be changed according to the evolving situation in Kyoto.
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo has released a recent notice of temporary closure
Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art
MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Korea announced its closure to the public from February 24, 2020 for COVID-19 precautions. Although it’s reported that MMCA had planned to reopen its four locations on March 23, the official website of MMCA shows that it remains closed for the time being.
Visitors at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul, South Korea
MOCA BANGKOK has announced it would be closed from March 22 to comply with safety regulations to prevent COVID-19.
New Potential: Online Programs and Virtual Experience
Although many employees in art institutions are confronting tough situations, a number of online programs organised by various institutions present a positive response to the worldwide catastrophe.
In ARTnews’ report, Heather Maxson, the Whitney Museum’s director of school, youth, and family programs emailed Whitney educators that her department was planning on launching a new online teaching initiative in response to requests from New York school teachers, community partners and senior centers. “The program will serve our community during the COVID-19 crisis and will enable you, our dedicated freelance team, to keep working, even though the museum is closed,” Maxson wrote. “We’re hoping to offer online programs from now through to the end of the school year.” It is believed that the Whitney is sending a powerful message to other museums.
Besides art institutions in the U.S., according to World Economic Forum, museums, galleries, music venues and opera houses across the world are shutting their doors temporarily to help slow the spread of coronavirus. However, virtual visiting experiences are welcomed in such a circumstance.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is offering a virtual tour. Image: Smithsonian
In addition, opera companies and orchestras including New York’s Met Opera and the Berlin Philharmonic have been live-streaming concerts to audiences around the world. Meanwhile, the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi in Florence and the Vatican Museum in Rome are among the famous museums and galleries offering virtual tours. One of the most famous online platforms Google Arts & Culture has partnered with 1,200 leading museums and archives to show their exhibits online and offer Street View tours.
The Pulitzer Prize Board has postponed its announcement of 2020 award winners. Originally scheduled for release on April 20, the prizes in journalism, books, drama, and music will now be announced on May 4, 2020 via live stream on Pulitzer’s website.
New York’s Met Opera
The Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall is now free for everyone.
Image: Berliner Philharmoniker
Google Arts & Culture
On April 5, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a rare televised speech calling for unity amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the speech, the Queen recalled her first broadcast in 1940 in World War II. Facing such a painful period again, as the Queen mentioned, many would once again feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. It is such a touching period that everyone in the world are fighting against a powerful but invisible enemy. Not only the U.K., but also other nations ought to gather together to get over the challenges.
On April 5, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a rare televised speech
Fighting against the pandemic makes every section of society confront tough situations: a financial crisis, staff layoffs, social anxiety etc., while art industries are only a small part of it. However, being a unique social component, each person should bear his or her own social responsibility to support each other. Every nation and different cultures should discard prejudices and reunite. By doing so, we believe, as the Queen’s address stated, “we will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us.”
On April 5, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II delivered a rare televised speech
"Everything will be ok" ... an Italian family on lockdown in Turin looks on the bright side.
Image: REUTERS/Massimo Pinca
1.BBC: Coronavirus: What does it mean if I've been furloughed by work?
2. ART news: Sotheby’s, Christie’s Plan Furloughs and Pay Cuts as Coronavirus Keeps Offices Closed
3. Los Angeles Times: Hit by ‘slow-burning catastrophe,’ MOCA forces to furlough or cut pay for most staff
4. HYPERALLERGIC: MoMA Terminates All Museum Educator Contracts
5. ARTnews: Expecting $7 M. Shortfall, New York’s Whitney Museum Lays Off 76 Employees
6. Bostonglobe: Museum of Fine Arts will remain closed, furlough staffers through June 30
7. art net news: SFMOMA Cuts or Furloughs Hundreds of Staff Members, Calling the Current Moment a ‘Very Painful Time for Our Museum’
8. ARTnews: Layoffs, Furloughs, and Pay Cuts: A Guide to Major U.S. Art Museums’ Coronavirus Closure Plans
9. ADPRO: National Trust, Custodian of Historic U.K. Homes and Gardens, Plans to Furlough 11,200 Staff Members
10. British museums and heritage organisations issue Covid-19 joint statement
11.World-famous cultural institutions closed due to coronavirus are welcoming virtual visitors
12. COVID-19: Turkish museums open for virtual visitors
13. COVID-19's impact on the European museum sector
14. UK gallery curator calls for public art project in response to Covid-19
15. Covid-19 support
16. £160m Emergency Response Package for the Arts
17. The List: Edinburgh Art Festival cancelled for August 2020
18.Indianapolis Contemporary: I/C Board Announces Plans To Close
19. Arts Council England: Covid-19 support
Comprehensive Report by CAFA ART INFO
Translated and edited by Sue and Emily