Two significant factors will affect the foreseeable future of museums. Both the corona plague and the anti-racist movement spreading around the world require museums to recalculate their trajectory.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York recently re-opened after a six-month closure. The huge museum has suffered an estimated loss of $ 150 million during the months it was closed, and will continue to suffer losses even now, as maintenance expenses have not dropped but ticket revenue is declining significantly as the museum is operating at only 25% of full occupancy. The big gainers are New Yorkers, for whom the Met is a kind of home that is visited regularly, in free time, but is usually shared with masses of tourists. Now, with Corona’s limitations, the museum is able to accommodate 2,000 people per hour but does not expect more than 4,000 people per day. It means an intimate and quiet visiting experience, for those who actually live nearby. that is.
The metropolitan’s situation is actually relatively good, due to the impressive budgets it receives from the administration and the mayor of New York. In the UK, on the other hand, the Minister of Culture warns museum directors that they must work harder to become more commercial, if they are to continue to receive government support. He demands administrators to be creative and open-minded to maximize alternative sources of income.
It’s hard to imagine how museums, creative as they may be, will succeed in increasing their income in this time of Covid-19. We hear that in the UK people are in no hurry to return to museums, and especially not the young people, who in recent years have flocked to museums to meet friends and take selfies. The museums worked hard to attract a young audience, which would become the future audience of the museums.
When thinking forward, another aspect of museums must be addressed- architecture. In recent years we have seen significant expansions of museums like the New York MoMA, the MoCA Museum in Los Angeles is also undergoing a massive renovation and there are plenty more institutes that flourished pre-Covid-19.
The need for museums to secure their income from a selection of sources, creates a need to re-examine the function of halls for performances and possibly also events. Another issue to consider is how visitors move in space – there are always areas that create a bottleneck in terms of visitor traffic. In any case, the architectural emphasis should be directed to the feeling of security of the visitors while visiting.
And as if the virus were not enough, many museums, mostly in the United States but also in Europe, are required today to address the painful issue of gender discrimination. The anti-racist awakening necessitates a re-examination of the museums’ collections, the exhibition program as well as the future procurement program. Solidarity is the name of the game now and the public, especially the Americans, expect their cultural institutions to align with new norms.
Israeli art institutes can only look with envy at the overseas policies. Here in Israel the budgets allocated to cultural institutes is shameful and since the pandemic there has been no attention paid to museums. The whole cultural sector is collapsing and is really seems that nobody cares. It’s very sad to realise that culture is at the bottom of the budget priority scale.
Not many visitors have yet to see Jeff Koons’ exhibition at the Tel-aviv museum. It opened just a few days before the museums were forced to close. When they reopened, the number of visitors was limited and then it closed again.