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Art and Museums


Art and Museums

18 May - 10am

Art and Museums in times of crisis, with the directors of: National Gallery, Wallace Collection, Estorick Collection, Scuderie del Quirinale and the Italian Cultural Institute in London.

#ItalyRestArt launched on 18 May with a webinar on the strategies adopted by museums forced to close due to the pandemic. The directors of the National Gallery (Gabriele Finaldi) and the Wallace Collection (Xavier Bray) in London and the Scuderie del Quirinale (Matteo Lafranconi) in Rome shared their experiences. They were joined in the discussion by the director of the Estorick Collection (Roberta Cremoncini) and the director of the Italian Cultural Institute in London (Katia Pizzi).

The conversation, a recording of which can be seen here, was moderated by Nicol Degli Innocenti, a journalist with 24 Ore, and covered issues such as the digitalisation of the museums’ pieces in order to enable the public to continue to enjoy them.

What will be done in the future with this new collection of digital material? Increasingly refined technology is available to offer virtual experiences – will it permanently change people’s relationship with art? Will virtual visits be shelved after the pandemic as a useful but temporary palliative or will they become a fundamental (and possibly marketable) complement to the experience offered by every museum?

The answers to these questions will depend in large part on the form and duration of the “new normal”.

The discussion began by looking at the practicalities of reopening once the lockdown ends. Lafranconi described how the Scuderie plans to organise visits to its Raphael exhibition, laying down an obligatory route through the exhibition, limiting the number of visitors allowed in at any one time, ensuring that groups are escorted and monitoring social distancing.

Finaldi, Bray and Lafranconi also discussed how museums may be affected by widespread changes in habits and sensitivities, such as a reduction in global travel and greater awareness of the environmental impact of long-haul flights. Will it remain socially acceptable to mobilise the considerable resources – human, physical and financial – needed to run large exhibitions? Or will there be a shift towards temporary exhibitions showing fewer pieces that are more easily and generously exchanged among museums?

The awareness of the cultural and academic value of large themed exhibitions is accompanied by concerns such as the predicted difficulty of securing funding for large cultural initiatives – but also by the potential for a renewed spirit of collaboration among museums.