New York’s Major Cultural Institutions Close in Response to Coronavirus03/14/2020
This went beyond New York: After California moved to limit large gatherings, on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced that concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall were being canceled, and orchestra concerts in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago were called off, as were performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington. (The Philadelphia Orchestra announced it would play on Thursday evening for an empty hall, and stream the concert at philorch.org.)
The Metropolitan Museum said it would temporarily close its Fifth Avenue flagship and two other locations — the Met Breuer, on Madison Avenue, and the Met Cloisters in northern Manhattan — starting Friday. It did not announce a target date to reopen, but said it would undertake a thorough cleaning and announce further steps early next week.
“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers and visitors,” Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. He added that the museum had been taking proactive precautionary measures, including discouraging staff travel to affected areas as well as “implementing rigorous cleaning routines, and staying in close communication with New York City health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.”
The museum said it had two employees who have showed symptoms of the virus. One is awaiting a test; the other is at home. The museum — which made its decision in consultation with the mayor’s office — also said it has been preparing for this possibility for several weeks, and is implementing an operational plan, which includes provisions to support salaried and hourly staff.
“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,” Mr. Weiss said.
Even before they made the announcement to shut down, many arts organizations were scrambling to navigate President Trump’s ban on travel from Europe, which threatened to leave many without some of their most important artists and biggest stars.
The music director of the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden, is currently in his native Amsterdam, and orchestra officials were girding themselves for the possibility that he could be stranded there. The Metropolitan Opera faced the loss of some of its leading stars, including Anna Netrebko, who was supposed to sing there later this month. And the Rotterdam Philharmonic noted the ban as it postponed a tour marking the 50th anniversary of its first United States trip.
Governor Cuomo’s limit on large gatherings effectively closed Broadway theaters. Lincoln Center said that its constituent organizations would stop performing as of Thursday evening. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center said that its musicians would play their planned performances on Thursday and Sunday without an audience, and the concerts will be streamed at chambermusicsociety.org.
Anxiety rippled through the arts world in response to the closures. Adam Krauthamer, the president of New York’s musicians’ union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, called on city and state officials to come up with a relief plan for musicians — many of whom work as freelancers for multiple employers and need work to qualify for health and pension benefits.
“As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind,’’ he said in a statement. “We call on all relevant government agencies to work immediately to put together and pass a strong economic relief package that ensures all arts workers have access to health care and unemployment benefits while their workplaces are shuttered.”
The Metropolitan Museum, one of the world’s largest art institutions, made its announcement at a time when it was embarking on celebrations of its 150th anniversary; just this week the museum decided to postpone the opening viewing and reception for its anniversary exhibition, “Making The Met, 1870—2020,” planned for March 23.
Boston’s top art museums followed suit, with the Harvard Art Museums, Institute of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts announcing temporary closures, as did the National Gallery of Art in Washington, High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Smithsonian museums in Washington and New York.
The Frick Collection, the Jewish Museum, the Neue Galerie, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the New Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History said Thursday that they would close, as did the New York spaces of Pace Gallery, Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian Gallery, and two of David Zwirner Gallery’s three locations in the city. (The one on 20th Street will remain open one more week.)
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