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The Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Photo: Francisco Anzola/Flickr.
The Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Photo: Francisco Anzola/Flickr.

French Arts Institutions Pen Open Letter Pleading to Be Allowed to Reopen

More than one hundred directors of French art museums have signed an open letter to French minister of culture Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin imploring her to allow cultural institutions, shuttered since November owing to an autumn spike in Covid-19 cases, to reopen, even in a limited capacity. Delivered today, the missive comes on the heels of President Emanuel Macron’s January 29 announcement that he would not lock the country down a third time amid a surge in coronavirus cases but that museums, among other entities, would have to remain closed.

For French arts institutions, which have struggled tremendously since the first Covid-19-related lockdown in the spring, the news was disappointing and marked the third time the projected date for reopening had shifted, first from December 15; then, robbing them of the profitable holiday season, January 7; and finally, to the end of January.

In the letter, the directors acknowledged that they understand the severity of the Covid-19 crisis but point to the efforts they have undertaken in order to welcome visitors, among them reduced capacity, enhanced security, and rigorous health protocols. They note also the psychological and emotional benefits to the public of cultural institutions and argue that they should be among the first to open in aid of the citizenry.

“For an hour, for a day, for a week or for a month, let us half open our doors, even if we have to close them,” in the event of another lockdown or expanded health measures, the directors pleaded. “We express the wish to be able to take care of visitors now, because it seems essential to us that places of culture can once again offer a sensitive aid to mental well-being to cope with this crisis. Art, like health, helps heal the human soul.”

Among the letter’s signatories are Quentin Bajac of the Jeu de Palme, Fabrice Hergott of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Emma Lavigne of the Palais de Tokyo, all in Paris; Isabelle Bertolotti of MAC, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon; Nicolas Borriaud of Montpellier Contemporain; Chiara Parisi of the Centre Pompidou-Metz; and Christoph Wiesner of Rencontres d’Arles.

The directors have their work cut out for them. New additional restrictions announced included a countrywide 6 p.m. curfew and the closing of the nation’s borders to all but essential travel to and from countries outside the European Union, with those travelers arriving from within the bloc required to show a negative Covid test.