Letting up on lockdown: The National Gallery will reopen next week, leading the way for UK museums

Letting up on lockdown: The National Gallery will reopen next week, leading the way for UK museums
The National Gallery in London in 2018, well before lockdown restrictions kept everyone at home. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
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While the US will celebrate Independence Day this Saturday, people across the UK will be celebrating, too, for at long last (but not long enough for some), strict lockdown measures will begin to ease. Pubs, restaurants, and barbers will be among those turning the lights on for the first time in since March and some UK museums won’t be too far behind.

In just a week, the National Gallery in London will be one of the first major UK institutions to open their doors after it and all other were forced to close roughly 100 days ago. “As the nation’s gallery, we feel it is imperative we open our doors as soon as we are safely able to do so,” a spokesperson for the National Gallery told Artnet News. “Our role now, as ever, is to provide access to some of the world’s greatest art, to give people inspiration and solace.” Dr Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery, called the reopening “hugely exciting” in a press release announcing the July 8th restart date.

To keep visitors safe, and in order to comply with social distancing measures and government guidelines, the museum has made a few changes. Museum-goers will be required to book tickets online, before heading to the museum. Three separate one-way routes will be set out through the museum in order to keep traffic moving while allowing visitors to see some of the most loved paintings. Each route will be accompanied by a downloadable map with information of the works on view; the museum has also teamed up with Smartify to provide even more info. According to Artnet News, museum curators have relocated their most popular paintings to larger galleries that better accommodate social distancing and to include them on allocated routes. Additionally, the museum has installed more effective air filters and will have hand sanitiser stations throughout their galleries for visitors to use.

The National Gallery won’t be alone in reopening after lockdown eases later this week. The Foundling Museum will open their doors on the 8th and will showcase their “Portraying Pregnancy” exhibition while the Royal Academy will reopen for members just a day later and then for the public on July 16th. The Barbican Art Gallery has announced that it will remain closed until July 14th and the Whitechapel Gallery will through July 14th.

While these institutions will be at the forefront of reopening, others are biding their time before reopening. The Serpentine Galleries in London and the Nottingham Contemporary will reopen during the first week of August. The Goldsmiths Center for Contemporary Art, the Drawing Room, and Chisenhale are waiting until September before they will once again welcome visitors. Meanwhile, there are still major museums, including the British Museum and Tate, who have yet to announce when they will be reopened. If London’s National Portrait Gallery is your favourite, unfortunately, you won’t be in luck. Even as lockdown is lifted, the museum will remain closed through 2023 as it undergoes an extensive planned refurbishment.