As July 4th marked the reopening of many public places across London, the city’s galleries began to put their own plans in place for welcoming visitors back.
“We’re all looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Tate,” said the director for Tate, Maria Malshaw, in the art institution’s reopening statement. “Art and culture play vital roles in our lives, and many of us have been craving that irreplaceable feeling of being face-to-face with a great work of art.”
Reflecting this same sentiment, the secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, Axel Rüger, said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to reopen our doors so soon after the restrictions have been lifted. Galleries should be places of community—providing solace, inspiration and enjoyment—and we are pleased to be able to offer this once more.”
With new showcases, extended exhibition dates and acquisitions adding to the anticipation, these are the art institutions opening their doors back up first.
Tate Modern – Warhol and Walker
All four Tate galleries—Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives—will reopen to the public on July 27th. Once Tate Modern reopens, you’ll be able to visit the Andy Warhol exhibition, looking into how Warhol and his work marked a period of cultural transformation, along with Kara Walker’s Hyundai Commission Fons Americanus, which is now showing until November.
To ensure social distancing requirements are met, all visitors will need to book timed tickets in advance. During its temporary closure, Tate modified some of its upcoming exhibition programme. This London gallery will now present Zanele Muholi and Bruce Nauman exhibitions in the autumn, while talks, workshops, performances and film screenings are replaced with online events for the rest of the year.
Tate Britain – Aubrey Beardsley
As well as providing access to its permanent collections, Tate Britain’s July 27th reopening means visitors will be able to see Aubrey Beardsley. The Victorian artist is most famous for his black and white drawings but, for the first time in more than half a century, this exhibition presents work from the full sweep of Beardsley’s career.
The Steve McQueen Year 3 installation is also on display, for which McQueen invited every year three pupil in the capital to be photographed as a representation of the future of London. The autumn will then see the opening of Turner’s Modern World and Lynette Yiadom-Boekye exhibitions. While the first explores the fascination Turner had with new technology and how he engaged with social upheavals, the second brings together around 80 artworks from the British artist and writer Yiadom-Boakye’s career.
Serpentine Galleries – Cao Fei
Art lovers across the capital will soon be able to access the Serpentine Galleries of Kensington Gardens when a phased reopening begins on August 4th. Cao Fei’s immersive, site specific installation will resume at the Serpentine Gallery and stay on display until September 13th, before the reopening of Cambio, Formafantasma’s radical design exhibition, which explores the global dynamics of the timber industry, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery on September 29th.
Public health will be a priority with visitors’ entrance controlled by a timed ticketing system, social distancing measures throughout and the requirement for both visitors and staff to wear masks. Online exhibitions and podcasts launched during lockdown, such as the collaborative showcase Back to Earth, will continue throughout the year.
The Barbican – Masculinities: liberation through photography
Reopening July 13th, Barbican Art Gallery is among the earliest to return with new safety measures in place. The gallery’s 2020 programme will resume through ticketed time-slots with the reopening of Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, an exhibition exploring masculinity in photography and film, which after being cut short by the gallery’s temporary closure has been extended until August 23rd.
The first-ever UK commission from Nigerian-American artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, A Countervailing Theory, will then be on show in The Curve from August 11th. The updated visual arts programme for the rest of the year includes an exhibition, launching October 7th, looking into the work of choreographer and dancer Michael Clark.
The National Gallery – Titian: Love, Desire and Death
The National Gallery became the first major museum in the UK to welcome visitors back when it reopened on July 8th. Now, all visits are exclusively bookable by time slots, with entrance via the Sainsbury Wing and exit through the Getty Entrance. Three one-way art routes guide visitors through different areas of the collection. As the acclaimed exhibition Titian: Love, Desire, Death had to close just three days after opening, the dates for this exhibition have been extended until January 17th. Room 32—one of the gallery’s largest rooms, displaying 17th-century Italian paintings by artists such as Caravaggio—is to reopen after a 21-month refurbishment, the newly restored Equestrian Portrait of Charles I by Van Dyck returns after more than two years, and a number of newly acquired paintings are on show.
Royal Academy of Arts – Picasso and Paper
After opening to Friends of the Royal Academy on July 9th, the RA reopens to the public on July 16th. The site will reopen in phases, beginning with a four-day-a-week, Thursday-to-Sunday opening. Health and safety measures will include a one-way system throughout the building, social distancing and the compulsory wearing of masks, sanitisation stations and a cashless system. Pre-booking is essential to all visitors. The Picasso and Paper exhibition, which is now showing until August, brings together 300 artworks spanning the artist’s 80-year career, highlighting his experimentation with paper.