As of one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe begins to ease, French museums and public monuments will reopen gradually in June and July, the country's Culture Ministry has announced.
The Louvre-Lens, 200km north of Paris, will be one of the first to open its doors next Wednesday, 3 June, with Black Suns, an exhibition on the history of the colour black in painting (until 25 January, free entry throughout June).
The Château de Versailles will follow suit on 6 June, then Paris's Musée du Quai Branly (on 9 June) and the Musée d'Orsay on 23 June, with a James Tissot show. The Centre Pompidou and the Grand Palais (the latter with an exhibition on Pompei) will open on 1 July, with the Musée Guimet and Musée Rodin a week later.
Meanwhile, the Louvre "is working towards a planned reopening on 6 July", its chairman Jean-Luc Martinez tells The Art Newspaper today. He indicated that "70% of the space, representing 65,000 square meters of galleries, will be accessible".
Strict rules will still apply. Although parks and gardens, such as Versailles or the Tuileries, will be open this weekend, playgrounds remain closed and gatherings of more than ten people prohibited. Museums will give priority to online reservations booked for a specified time. Masks will still be compulsory.
A signposted routing system will be set up in the Louvre to avoid visitors crossing each others paths. Attendance in the Monna Lisa's room will remain subject to physical distancing rules and the museum's show on artists' self portraits will continue throughout the summer. The 2020 star exhibition, dedicated to Italian Renaissance sculpture from Donatello to Michelangelo, has been postponed to October and will continue until January, before going to Milan, says Martinez who praises the "international cooperation between museums, which has allowed the renewal of loans". The exhibition on the Renaissance German artist Albrecht Altdorfer, initially planned for this spring, will be held at the same time.
Visited by some 10m people each year, the highest museum attendance in the world, the Louvre is a special case. Martinez expects this figure to collapse this summer, with foreign visitors (who make up more than 75% of attendance) predicted to stay away. About half of the museum's budget relies on entries and commercial revenues. Martinez declines to give details of the losses suffered so far this year, but they will be considerable—during lockdown, the museum had to refund 70,000 online reservations and secure 800 works on loan around the world. But between 12 March and 21 May, traffic to its website reached a record 10.5m visits in 71 days, 17% of them from the US.