Many concerned members of the New York art world received fateful news on Thursday: some major New York museums will temporarily close as city officials attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will close all three of its locations in New York starting on Friday. The news comes as major institutions across Europe are beginning to shutter amid country-wide bans on large gatherings. An expected reopening date was not announced, and a statement from the museum said next steps will be revealed early next week. No other major New York institution has yet announced plans to close.
In a statement, Daniel H. Weiss, the museum’s president, said, “The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers, and visitors, and we have been taking several proactive precautionary measures, including discouraging travel to affected areas, implementing rigorous cleaning routines, and staying in close communication with New York City health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.”
[See a complete guide to the coronavirus’s impact on museums, fairs, and more around the world.]
According to the New York Times, two employees at the Met have coronavirus symptoms, with one awaiting the results of a test. As of Wednesday, there are more than 200 cases of the virus in the state of New York.
“While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the Museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community, which at this time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible,” Weiss said in his statement. “We look forward to soon announcing when we’ll be able to welcome our staff and visitors back to the Museum.”
The Met is among the biggest institutions worldwide to close thus far. Other major institutions that temporarily shuttered include the Prado in Madrid and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Earlier this month, the Louvre in Paris closed briefly while its employees discussed coronavirus containment; it is now open, but is only accepting visitors with tickets booked online.
Hours after the news of the Met’s closure broke, other institutions followed suit. The New Museum said it would close its galleries and offices starting Thursday night, and that it would reevaluate the situation in two weeks. The Bronx Museum of the Arts announced that it would close indefinitely starting tomorrow, as did the Jewish Museum. The Shed, an arts space that holds performances, concerts, and exhibitions, said it would be closed through March 30.
The Brooklyn Museum will also close on Friday. An exhibition focused on Studio 54, the famed New York nightclub, was to open that day, and the museum said it will still run through July 5.