Smells like team spirit: London galleries work together to reopen from 15 June

David Goldblatts Soweto: At the Soccer Cup Final, Orlando Stadium (1972) will be on show at Goodman Gallery Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery London, Johannesburg, Cape Town

After three months of enforced closure, a cluster of London galleries are planning to reopen by appointment on 15 June as the UKs coronavirus lockdown is gradually eased, allowing non-essential retailers to open. And, thanks to the new collaborative spirit that has seemingly emerged among galleries during the pandemic, they have been helping each other work out how to reopen while complying with social distancing guidelines.

Earlier this week, a group of 14 contemporary art galleries including David Zwirner, White Cube, Pace, Gagosian, Luxembourg & Dayan, Goodman Gallery and Hauser & Wirth sent out a joint press release—an unusual move in itself—announcing their reopening plans starting from 15 June. “We welcome visitors to return to the West End and engage with a Parcours of exciting exhibitions by leading international artists,” the statement says, adding that galleries will be open by appointment only and visitors will be required to wear masks.

Goodman Gallery will reopen with a show of photographs by David Goldblatt that document South Africas apartheid. “We wanted to reopen with an exhibition that speaks to issues of racial inequalities that the gallery has championed for 54 years.” says Liza Essers, the gallerys director. Regarding the lockdown, she says: “I feel we have missed that human connection. We won't be returning to the previous normal but the intimacy of connecting with individuals in the gallery has been something I've missed. It is fulfilling for our souls—and necessary.” The gallery will permit a maximum of six visitors at a time and they will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken.

London's Cork Street during lockdown © Katherine Hardy

“It has had an impact, there's no question,” Essers says of the lockdown. “I'm an intuitive person so running a business without the face-to-face factor between staff, artists and collectors has impacted me personally as I'm sure for all business owners and directors around the world. It's been challenging as a leader to stay in touch over digital portals like Zoom—the human factor is lost and the culture of a business changes as a result.” She adds: “A big question for me is how we will reignite connectivity in the post-lockdown new normal.”

Skarstedt is also planning to reopen its St Jamess gallery on 15 June. “Many clients say theyre being bombarded with endless PDF lists of works from galleries and online viewing rooms, but they really just want to come into a gallery and see a work in the flesh and talk about it to someone again,” says Bona Montagu, a partner at Skarstedt. For now, clients can call to make an appointment and in September, the gallery is planning to use Eventbrite “to enable people to make a booking and feel comfortable about visiting without crowds.”

The gallery owner Sadie Coles says the “subject of reopening and what we need to do to comply is currently the major topic” of the London Gallery Forum Whatsapp group, which was formed in March and now has around 64 galleries as members. Via the forum (which was initially started to discuss rent relief) galleries are sharing advice on resources and logistics, and finding practical solutions, such as coordinating a bulk purchase of PPE for galleries.

Coles is not planning to reopen her two London galleries until 3 July and, she says: “The main thing is I want my staff to feel comfortable about coming to work—I want them to feel the reopening is a positive experience rather than one thats going to create anxiety and worry”. Visitors will be limited to between six and ten at a time and they will be instructed to go around the gallery shows in an anti-clockwise direction, Coles says. Westminster Council is also providing pavement stickers to keep queues well distanced. “All this information is coming through to us now, its changing every day,” Coles says. “If the UK government introduces Track and Trace, we will have to take peoples names as they enter the gallery, so weve made a policy in case.”

Jacob Twyford, a director at Waddington Custot, says the Mayfair gallery is planning to reopen on 15 June, “although I'm not expecting huge foot-fall.” The gallery will restrict visitors to groups no larger thantwo, with two or three entries at any one time: “We'll also probably indicate a line to separate visitors from the reception staff, whilst making it easy to communicate. I really think the risks are minimal, if carefully managed.” Twyford shares Read More – Source