Tired of JPGs and digital art galleries? Good news! With the passage of Labor Day, we have something brand new to celebrate as the coronavirus finally begins to wind down-the opening of the art world beyond its digital doors! April saw New York reeling from its status as at the epicenter of the United States coronavirus, its rush to become a haven from Covid-19 by the middle of summer 2020. With summer coming to a close and the coronavirus outbreak curve showing its first hints of flattening, questions remain: How can the art world safely reopen? What steps need to be taken to make people comfortable and genuinely safe?
A top concern for any business reopening is determining the appropriate health and safety precautions necessary, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control. Unfortunately, there is a gray area regarding proper responses to individual situations, which requires sound judgment from artists, galleries, museums, and other spaces housing art available to the public. There is a growing consensus among art dealers at varying industry levels that entry with masks should be required. Also, hand sanitizers should be available near the entrance, and social distancing must be enforced. Increased cleaning levels, particularly of commonly used surfaces (such as entryways and bathrooms), are vital. Beyond these general responses, however, other art dealers in New York have taken their responses a step beyond with extra precautions such as allowing or requiring appointment-only viewings and using tape markings on floors to help visitors adhere to social distancing requirements. However, the guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control have remained a standard baseline for all businesses.
Finding Calm in the Pandemic
Despite even the most extraordinary precautions, the presence of the pandemic is still a reality. There is no risk-free way to go out in public, even with the most dutiful measures. That fact is one that must be considered in a practical sense, as well as an emotional one. Even with all precautions in place, visitors can still feel overwhelmed by the potential before them any time they come into contact, even while socially distanced, with others. In conjunction with practical safety precautions, the challenge is creating a socially distanced atmosphere still inviting enough to allay the fears of those still cautious about venturing outside.
Art dealers across New York are finding that the critical component in creating a space that calms guests' fear to show visitors that precautions are strictly adhered to. Letting guests know that safety matters is essential, even if it means wait lines, limited entrance, and confronting those who fail to follow safety guidelines. Though these precautions appear to limit and distance those we want to welcome, it creates much the opposite effect in those still nervous about approaching the outside by letting them know that we are serious about everyone’s safety. Even if the pandemic isn’t yet over, letting guests know that they are being considered has proved crucial in the reopening process.
Reopening with passion
The task of reopening a business amid a global pandemic, taking the appropriate precautions, facing the genuine possibility of reduced numbers of art and guests, and warming the hearts of those who are bold enough to reenter the world is no small task. Achieving all of that while keeping one’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing in check is enough to exhaust even the strongest among us. Many art dealers have not yet reopened out of their reservations about what that means. However, the chance to celebrate new art and to bring the community together is a privilege. Art dealers and venders alike can aid the reopening process with safety precautions, consideration and kindness, and a return to the soul of art-which is expression. Many cannot enjoy the small pleasures of works of art amid the current climate. To open the doors to the art world is a noble act, and enjoying it a luxury!