The halls are eerily quiet at Madrid’s Reina Sofia, Spain’s most visited museum, as a solitary art restorer looks after its star attraction — Pablo Picasso’s anti-war masterpiece “Guernica”.
Like all of Spain’s museums, the modern art museum housed in a former hospital has been closed since mid-March due to a nationwide lockdown to contain one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks.
But with the restrictions starting to be eased, it is getting ready to reopen – hopefully in a month – with new social distancing and hygiene regulations in place for the pandemic age.
Museums must “convey the message that there is no need to fear others,” said Reina Sofia’s director, Manuel Borja-Villel.
Visitors will move through the multi-storey building on a circular path so as not to cross by one another, cameras will take people’s temperature and dispensers for hand sanitisers will be distributed across the museum, he told a section of the media.
Paper maps and brochures will no longer be available as they can transmit germs, and visitors will instead be able to download an info app on their own smartphones.
Less big exhibitions?
The Reina Sofia received 4.4 million visitors in 2019, half of them from outside Spain, but it fears it will see a 30 per cent fall in revenues this year because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The government has ordered museums to restrict admissions to a third of their capacity when they do re-open to ensure social distancing rules are respected.
Borja-Villel predicts museums will have to move away from their current model based on holding a series of “big exhibitions” and adopt a more long-term strategy.
While the Reina Sofia is closed to the public, restoration work continues.
The Reina Sofia, along with the nearby Prado and the Thyssen museums, forms a so-called “Golden Triangle of Art” which is one of the Spanish capital’s top tourism draws.
The Prado — Spain’s national museum which is home to paintings by Spanish masters such as El Greco, Velazquez and Goya — fears a 70 per cent drop in revenues this year, said its communications director Carlos Chaguaceda.