Art lovers ‘bored of looking at computer screens’ as galleries reopen

Art lovers said they hoped the reopening of galleries would “lift everyone’s spirits” as museums welcomed back guests for the first time in months.

Visitors queued outside the National Gallery in central London, where Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden was among the first guests.

Coronavirus – Mon May 17, 2021
Oliver Dowden (left) at the National Gallery in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Lois Brooks, 71, who is retired, travelled from her home in Ispwich to visit the gallery in the capital.

She described the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as “exciting” and added: “I have missed doing this and I think it’s going to be really great.”

Norma, who did not want to give her surname or age, said she had missed coming to the gallery “a lot”.

“It will be amazing to be able to stand in front of the artwork, the real thing,” she said.

“I’ve got very bored of staring at a computer screen.”

Coronavirus – Mon May 17, 2021
Mr Dowden at the Tate Modern (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Catherine Turner, a 46-year-old consultant, said: “It’s pretty amazing to have the gallery reopening.

“I think having it open to everyone changes the community’s mindset and lifts everyone’s spirits.”

Mr Dowden also paid a visit to the Tate Modern to see Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, which will open to Tate members from May 18 and to members of the public from June 14.

Coronavirus – Mon May 17, 2021
The Yayoi Kusama exhibition (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The two immersive mirror room installations will be available to visit until June 12 2022.

The reopening of museums and galleries comes as new research suggests more than half of institutions are worried about their long-term survival.

Research by charity Art Fund suggests 55% of museums and galleries remain concerned about their ability to stay open.

British Museum stock
British Museum (Tim Ireland/PA)

The survey also revealed that only 24% said they were not very concerned abut their ongoing survival, while 4% were not concerned at all.

A total of 316 museum and gallery directors were surveyed as part of the research.

Of those polled, 39% said they relied on grants from local authorities to get by during the pandemic, while 38% relied on Government funding from the Culture Recovery Fund.

The Government previously unveiled the £1.57 billion fund to save institutions in peril as a result of the global pandemic, plus additional support during the Budget this year.

Visitor numbers at museums and galleries were down 75% in 2021/21 compared to the previous year, according to Art Fund.

The charity’s director Jenny Waldman said: “This past year we have all been deprived of our galleries, museums and historic houses.

“Now everyone has the power to breathe life back into their favourite museum by going with family and friends.

“These much-loved places have made heroic efforts to stay afloat over the past year and are now ready to safely welcome everybody back.”

Liverpool stock
Tate Liverpool (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Mr Dowden said: “Today we’re not just getting a step closer to normal, we’re getting back to the things we love. Cultural organisations can now reopen and venues across the country are preparing to welcome audiences back to performances.

“Of course I recognise the anxiety people feel as we assess the situation over the next fortnight in the run up to stage 4, but today is a huge moment for our hard hit cultural landscape.

“We’ve supported the nation’s arts organisations, venues, cinemas and heritage sites during difficult months of necessary closure with our Culture Recovery Fund worth almost £2 billion.

“More support will also be on its way to our much-loved museums, music venues, theatres and historic houses as they reopen, but from today everyone can safely play a part in helping our cultural institutions to get going again.”

Museums and galleries will initially have to reopen with social-distancing measures in place and visitors will be required to wear face coverings.

The Natural History Museum and British Museum in London and Newcastle’s Laing Art Gallery are also among the venues welcoming back visitors on Monday.

Tate Britain – Heather Phillipson exhibition – London
Artist Heather Phillipson with her new commission titled Rupture No 1: Blowtorching The Bitten Peach at the Tate Britain (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Artist Heather Phillipson’s Rupture No 1: Blowtorching The Bitten Peach exhibition at the Tate Britain in London is one of the new exhibitions which will be open to visitors on the first day of reopening.

Some venues including Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, Manchester Art Gallery and National Museum Cardiff will open later in the week.