Great Britain

BBC Newsnight guest questions whether museums will become Covid ‘memorials’

Independent curator Fatos Ustek has reflected on the importance of museums during the current historical context. She explained that art can become “forceful” when it reflects “strong political, social and emotional histories through abstraction.”

Museums have now been closed down for months under the Government’s coronavirus lockdown.

The earliest date planned for their reopening is is May 17.

According to officials, "commercial galleries" have permission to open their doors in the fourth phase of the roadmap for the reopening of the economy.

This is despite complaints from museum officials who said museums should have opened this week along with hospitality and non-essential retail businesses.

In a statement, director Sharon Heal said they have more in common with other facilities being allowed to reopen from this week.

She said: “There’s no logic for museum reopening to be delayed until May 17.

“Museums and their audiences are losing out because the Government has classified museums as ‘indoor entertainment venues’ alongside cinemas and theatres.

"Yet in terms of implementing social distancing, they have far more in common with libraries, public buildings and community centres, which will all open on April 12."

The Museums Association said there was "no logic" for museums to endure a long wait.

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Speaking on Wednesday’s edition of the program, Ms Ustek said: “I don’t think art necessitates objects as proof of evidence in order to talk about a defining experience, such as a global pandemic.

“And I think art becomes even more forceful when it is actually addressing very strong political, social and emotional histories through abstraction, and though also employing other objects.

“So, I don’t necessarily think contemporary art museums need to collect objects in order to make exhibitions that respond to Covid. But one thing that is very important is the role of the institution.

“And also at the same time, what do we expect from our contemporary museums and galleries? In the sense that, do we want them to become memorials? Because memorials have singular function.”

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