French Museums to Remain Closed Through January 7

December 11, 2020

French arts institutions, already enduring their second pandemic-related shutdown since spring, will remain dark through January 7 of next year, in accordance with new measures introduced by the country’s prime minister, Jean Castex. The new date is three weeks beyond the originally projected reopening date of December 15 and represents a crushing financial blow, as the holidays are typically a time when museums see a surge in visitors.

Instead France, like many regions around the world, is seeing a surge in Covid-19, with new daily cases reaching 13,750 on December 10, a markedly higher number than the 5,000 that represents the highest threshold at which museums, theaters, and cinemas are allowed to reopen. Instead, these, along with restaurants, bars, and gyms, will remain closed even as lockdown lifts on December 15. Many cultural venues were already apprehensive about their fiscal prospects, as an 8 p.m.–6 a.m. curfew will remain in place following the end of lockdown.

French culture minister Roselyn Bachelot on December 11 pledged $42 million in aid to the affected cultural venues. Speaking with BFM television, she described the extended restrictions as “heartbreaking,” but contended that reopening on December 15 only to shut down again in January would have “killed the cultural sector.”

Besides representing a loss of revenue, the prolonged closure for some institutions means the postponement—in some cases, for the second time—of long-anticipated exhibitions. The Art Newspaperreports that the Conciergerie, in Paris, was forced to put off the opening of a major exhibition by Ghanian artist El Anatsui meant to herald the Africa 2020 Season. The season, which is in support of African culture, has been delayed multiple times owing to the pandemic. The Maison Européenne de la Photographie, also in Paris, has had to postpone for a second time its exhibition of the work of Japanese photographers Daido Moriyama and Shomei Tomatsu; the institution is additionally struggling with an upcoming Zanele Muholi show. Imported from London’s Tate Modern, the exhibition has already seen its dates shift several times.