Museums suffer from this extended lockdown

Published by Cécile D. · Photos by Elodie D. · Published on 15 December 2020 at 13h30 · Updated on 15 December 2020 at 14h20
“It’s heartbreaking, these exhibitions will not meet the public again” Musée d’Orsay president Laurence des Cars deplores. As they must stay closed at least until January 7, 2021, museums are going out of their ways to make sure their programs will survive the Covid-19 epidemic.

2020 would have been very difficult for museums in France. In addition to the heavy financial losses – mostly compensated by the government’s support – museums are faced with major logistic issues. As a matter of facts, exhibitions held in 2020 have been extended, postponed, cancelled since the lockdowns have disturbed the art world’s calendar.

As they are expected to reopen from January 2021, museums must once again handle time problems. At the Musée d'Orsay, they try to stay positive even though the situation is very difficult.

The Léon Spilliaert and Aubrey Beardsley exhibitions will have to come to an end, even though they opened only for two weeks. They cannot be extended: works are expected in other museums. This is also the case for the Giorgio de Chirico exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie, expected in Hamburg.

The very anticipated The Origins of the World exhibition – expected to start this winter at the Musée d’Orsay – has been postponed again. The institution has had to negotiate with other museums to extend the loan of works. “Some works of art for which we had a loan deal could not be delivered because of the health situation” the exhibition curator, Laura Bossi, also explains to Le Point.

A chaotic situation that deeply impacts the museums’ programs. “We have been quick to respond, we have anticipated well, we kept on rescheduling our program even though it has been disturbed” Musée d’Orsay president Laurence des Cars guarantees. Yet, she admits that the help from the Ministry of Culture and the State helped the museum to stay strong amid the crisis.

It enables us to make it through this very difficult wave and that would have been insurmountable without this help. We are in a very different situation than the American institutions, mostly private, that are experiencing a severe crisis with dismissals and sales of works. We will face the brunt, there is no doubt about it” Laurence des Cars says, happy.

But this brighter future is not shared unanimously by all her colleagues. According to, art world players are worried. A civil servant working at the city hall, working for the 14 museums of the City of Paris, is bitter. The lack of communication from the government jeopardized many institutions. He says museums “have been given a runaround for weeks. Opening, closing, preparing to reopen, it costs a lot. We cannot continue as we used to”.

Therefore, even though major museums can find a way to make ends meet, more fragile or less supported institutions cannot. Back to this Spring, the Musée Rodin had to sell some of the works of art to bail out.

The anger stays strong too in the cultural sector because of the government’s decision. According to Paris Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (Fine Arts Grand School) director Jean de Loisy, the decision to keep cultural venues closed is symptomatic of this government’s policy: “reasons for which the supermarket is open and the museum is closed is not only a matter of public health, but show the priority of today’s political philosophy”.

Representatives of museums, movie theaters, theaters and show venues are protesting this Tuesday December 15 against the extended closure of their facilities. A legal action is to be brought by trade unions soon.

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