Having waited longer than institutions in other countries to shutter amid the coronavirus crisis, England’s museums finally began to close early this week. The Tate museum network, which oversees spaces in London, Liverpool, and St. Ives, is the biggest British entity to announce its closure, which came on Tuesday. Tate did not immediately say when its four museums would reopen. The closure means that visitors who had expected to see an Andy Warhol retrospective that opened just days ago will have to wait to see one of the season’s most anticipated shows.
“For over 120 years we have been welcoming people to our galleries to enjoy great art from around the world,” Tate said in a statement. “However, the welfare of our visitors and staff must always come first.”
Around the same time, the Serpentine Galleries in London also revealed that it would temporarily shutter, saying in a statement that, even though the museums were closed, “our work continues” because broadcasts, podcasts, and digital commissions were planned for the website. The Wellcome Collection and the Institute of Contemporary Arts London closed Sunday and Monday, respectively.
After Tate made its announcement, other museums followed suit. The British Museum and the National Gallery said they would close on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, for an indefinite time. The latter was forced to postpone an Artemisia Gentileschi blockbuster that had been planned for April. London’s V&A museum and the National Portrait Gallery also closed.
The news comes as British officials amp up their response to the coronavirus outbreak, which had spread to more than 1,500 people in the country as of Tuesday. A new study released on Monday projected that half a million British citizens could die from the new disease, and its findings reportedly pushed the government to take a harder line to contain the virus’s spread.