COVID-19: National Gallery becomes first major London museum to reopen

LONDON: Britain's National Gallery reopens on Wednesday (Jul 8), with masks recommended and social distancing and advance booking mandatory, as the country continues to emerge from three months of coronavirus lockdown.

The central London venue is the first major art museum in the British capital to open its doors after closing in late March along with the rest of the hospitality, tourism and cultural sectors.

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Visitors must now book in advance, are advised to wear face coverings and follow signposted routes around the space which, at 46,396 sq m, is roughly the size of six football pitches.

Gallery director Gabriele Finaldi told reporters he hoped initially for around a quarter of the usual number of visitors – or 3,000 to 4,000 people per day.

Visitors must now book in advance, wear face coverings and follow signposted routes. (Photo: AFP/Justin Tallis)

The prestigious venue, located in the heart of London overlooking Trafalgar Square, has signposted three different one-way routes through its various wings to ensure social distancing.

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It is also providing hand sanitising gel and scrapped audio guides.

"We had two primary objectives," said Chief Operating Officer Paul Gray. "One was to make sure that we made visitors feel safe and that we reassured them but equally we wanted to make it an enjoyable experience."

The National Gallery's daily hours have been reduced from eight to five, though on Friday they will be extended to 10 hours.

The central London venue becomes the first major art museum in the British capital to open its doors again. (Photo: AFP/Justin Tallis)

However, Gray invited people to linger in front of paintings and "take their time to enjoy them", with the gallery able to stay open later if necessary.

"We've got that extra capacity, by opening longer if we need to if it's busy, which would be a nice problem to have," he added.

TATE MODERN TO FOLLOW

The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and has a collection of more than 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to the 1900s.

It closed its doors on Mar 18, five days before the country was ordered into full lockdown, and like many cultural institutions has seen its finances ravaged by the lockdown.

The government on Monday announced a £1.57 billion (US$1.96 billion) package to help the sector survive the crisis, following increasingly desperate calls for help.

The National Gallery was founded in 1824. (Photo: AFP/Justin Tallis)

The National Gallery – which like its two great big rivals the Tate Modern and the British Museum is free to visit – relies on a mixture of state funding and the proceeds of exhibitions, memberships and patronage as well as endowments and trusts.

It is the wealthiest of the trio, according tRead More – Source