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Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin. Photo: Dittrich & Schlechtriem.
Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin. Photo: Dittrich & Schlechtriem.

Art Galleries in Germany to Reopen Next Week

On Wednesday, the German government announced that it would begin to lift the country’s lockdown. As part of the first phase of its cautious reopening plan, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that small nonessential stores and businesses, including galleries, may open their doors on Monday as long as social distancing measures are strictly maintained. All schools will remain closed for another three weeks, and large public gatherings will continue to be banned through the end of August. Museum reopenings were not addressed.

“I am more than thrilled to be opening again,” dealer André Schlechtriem of Dittrich & Schlechtriem told Artnet News. “Galleries cannot exist in an online-only world. My gallery is a personal social space where every visitor is greeted personally by myself or my staff. We are always happy to answer questions and talk about the art we present. That’s what we live for.” While visitors will be welcomed back to the gallery they will be required to wear masks and enter one at time.

Esther Schipper told the Art Newspaper that when it reopens next week “all the necessary measures will be taken. This includes the wearing of masks, regular disinfection and the limiting of visiting numbers and of course social distancing across the team.” While Daniel McLaughlin, who opened McLaughlin Galerie in Berlin shortly before the quarantine began, praised the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its emergency aid package, he said the five weeks of closure is just the beginning and is concerned about a subsequent drop in sales.

Germany’s support of cultural institutions and workers has been robust. On March 23, Culture Minister Monika Grütters announced that the government would deliver a $168 billion aid package, $54 billion of which were set aside for small businesses and freelancers working in the cultural, creative, and media sectors. Galleries and small arts organizations with five employees or fewer are able to apply for $9,800 through the summer, and companies with up to ten employees are eligible for up to $16,000. German states have also been mobilizing to help the arts, with the Berlin Senate announcing last month that it would offer up to $107 million for freelance workers and small businesses.

But the economic lockdown will continue for another three weeks, cautioned Chancellor Merkel: “We have achieved something, something that by no means was a given at the start—namely that our doctors and carers, all those in the medical field, in the hospitals, were not overwhelmed,” she said. “What we’ve achieved is an interim success—no more, no less. And I stress that it is a fragile interim success.”