May 13, 2020
News

The U.K. revealed plans to allow galleries and auction houses to reopen starting June 1st.

Sotheby's auction house in London. Photo by Amanda Farah, via Flickr.

Sotheby's auction house in London. Photo by Amanda Farah, via Flickr.

Small and mid-size galleries and auction houses in the United Kingdom will be allowed to reopen as early as June 1st as part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to relax lockdown measures. The plan, which was shared on Monday, does not specifically include galleries and auction houses in its plan to reopen “non-essential retail” enterprises, but a report in The Art Newspaper stated that U.K.-based art trade organizations received federal confirmation that those institutions would fall under the category.
The June 1st open date will be the second phase of Johnson’s plan to reopen; the first phase, which allows non-customer-facing employees to return to their positions, went into effect today. While small and mid-size art venues will be allowed to operate with newly-implemented social distancing guidelines, larger cultural institutions such as museums will not be allowed to open until phase three of Johnson’s plan, which is currently slated to go into effect July 4th.
British Art Market Federation chairman Anthony Browne told The Art Newspaper:
Our prime objective is to get the wheels of commerce turning as quickly as possible. If art businesses had the same strict social distancing requirements imposed upon them as we’re seeing with the essential businesses such as supermarkets, then the market could adopt them and get going much more quickly, even if they are onerous.
With this plan to ease lockdown measures, the U.K. joins countries in Europe that have begun to reopen their art world institutions. Germany opened some of its museums and galleries in April, and small French institutions have been allowed to reopen since Monday, with Italian and Belgian institutions following a similar plan to re-open in mid-May.

Further Reading: Galleries Are Taking Extraordinary Measures to Reopen during a Global Pandemic