The Tate has announced it is closing all four of its sites in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in the UK, the first national UK museum to shut its doors during the pandemic. Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate St Ives and Tate Liverpool will close from 18 March until 1 May. Last week, a Tate Modern worker tested positive for the virus.
In a tweet, Tate says that exhibition tickets will be refunded. “You may choose to donate the cost of your ticket, rebook for a future date or receive a refund,” the gallery says. In another tweet, Tate adds: “We look forward to welcoming you back to Tate when we reopen. Until then, let’s look after each other.”
The British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery in London are staying open for now. A spokeswoman for the British Museum says: “The British Museum remains open currently, we are awaiting further guidance from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Government today. The health and safety of our staff and visitors is our absolute priority.”
We asked the DCMS if it plans to issue any new advice to national museums over coronavirus; at the time of writing, there was no comment. Oliver Dowden, UK culture minster, posted on social media however that "ministers and I are ensuring their concerns [those in the culture sector] are heard across Whitehall". Meanwhile, the National Museum Directors’ Council, which represents the leaders of the UK's national collections and major regional museums, says it is “coordinating a response”.
The Serpentine Galleries in London, Camden Arts Centre and the Baltic in Gateshead are also closing temporarily until further notice. The Serpentine is encouraging people to follow its programme online through special broadcasts, podcasts and digital commissions.
Later today, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil a “rescue package” for businesses hit by Covid-19. Representatives in the culture sector, including the advocacy group Museums Association, hope that the government will also provide assistance for museums and galleries countrywide.
UPDATE: All V&A sites (South Kensington, Museum of Childhood, Blythe House and V&A Dundee) will temporarily close from 18 March. The Barbican is also temporarily closed until further notice due to new UK Government advice on Covid-19. In a statement, Barbican says that "the current situation presents a very significant financial challenge to us", and requests donations.
The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts and National Gallery in London have also announced they will now close. "We hope that we will be able to reopen on 4 May 2020, but this is dependent on Government advice in this rapidly changing situation," says the National Gallery, which will close 19 March.
A DCMS spokesperson said:
"Our national museums are at the beating heart of our cultural life and have an important role in caring for the national collection. Due to exceptional and unprecedented circumstances these important institutions have made the decision to close temporarily to protect members of the public and those who work there.
"The government is working closely with all DCMS-sponsored museums to understand the impact of coronavirus on the sector, provide advice and support, and ensure they are in receipt of the most up to date public health guidance."