• gerard van weyenbergh

Covid-19 changes how we look at art

We just spent more time on our screens. But under what conditions will we be able to watch a work of art in real life, hoping that it will arouse an emotion? What kind of exhibitions are we going to visit?

These questions were already being asked, but the health crisis made them more complex, sharpened them while requiring answers in the short term. Answers that could be dated. After a few European countries, France should gradually reopen its museums. This reopening to ensure in good sanitary conditions is a challenge for them, as it is currently for the galleries. How to regulate the flow to limit the number of visitors present in the rooms? Impose a wait outside, be able to set up a remote reservation system stipulating a time slot and a limited visit time? The wearing of the mask will undoubtedly have to be required, the personnel trained to make respect the physical distance, this time not only with the works but between people. The answers to be provided are all the more difficult since the influx of visitors remains an unknown, even based on statistics of previous attendance. We will want to find the works, but will we accept these new constraints twice, several times? Seeing a museum in limited numbers is a pleasure, doing it while being wary of other visitors is less so. Opinion surveys have shown that in France cultural outings were more understood as a risk of contamination than as a priority. It is more likely, however, that a new chapter will open for exhibitions. The planes are nailed to the ground, the masterpieces can no longer travel. Farewell to the retrospectives that multiplied international loans, the famous blockbusters appealing to a crowd, which, moreover, will probably no longer be able to attend. Already, they saw themselves criticized for their impact on global warming with their use of air transport, temporary scenographies not used. The Covid-19 will hasten the eclipse of these blockbusters. Are we definitely going to burn what we loved? In Europe, as in America, museum directors plead for a refocusing on collections, their study and their presentation in terms of today's concerns. The file exhibitions, once in vogue, therefore have a new future. It will be less flamboyant, but will allow museums to exercise their educational mission and will open up new fields of study for art historians or researchers in the social sciences. This will require the guardianships of these institutions to have a less obtuse look on the attendance figures and their ticketing resources. For art centers, some officials have joined this call for refocusing, by showing their desire to adopt from now on “short circuits”, ecological as for food, above all to exhibit regional or local artists. This is the pitfall: withdrawal, self-sufficiency. This would not be of service to artistic creation, which is enriched by an extensive circuit, or to the public. The Internet offers even more in this transitional period openness to the world. In the past, engravings and then photography favored the dissemination and knowledge of artists' creations for the greatest number; today social networks - only one, Instagram - have replaced them. Artists, museums, art centers, galleries, fairs have swarmed in abundance, in saturation, for better or for worse. Here too, the pandemic acts as a catalyst for change. Let us beware of prophesying an upheaval of “consumption” choices, but undeniably new habits have been created. Le Journal des arts