It’s been a year since we first heard of lockdowns, quarantines, and the Covid pandemic. We all thought the emergency would only last a few weeks, perhaps months, but no one would have ever expected it to last a whole year.
I don’t know about you, but one year into this I am starting to feel itchy feet and a desperate urge to move, see things, and visit places. It’s been a tough year, although not entirely negative at least for me, and I feel so blessed to be here now. But hey, I guess we all got to the point where all we want to do is packing a light bag and leave for a vacation, being it in an exotic city, a bustling capital, or a remote beach.
So with that in mind, I tried to come up with a few pieces of advice on how to resume our art explorations even during these Covid times. We might not be able to travel far and definitely not as much as we wanted, but we can still apply those rules to all the places around us. And once we will reacquaint ourselves to wearing real clothes and doing things outside our homes, it’ll be much easier to resume our pre-Covid lives, once allowed.
So, without any further ado, here are some thoughts and advice on how we can visit and plan art trips during a global pandemic.
Plan in advance, but be super flexible
Needless to say, one thing we have learned over the last year is that everything can change in just a matter of days. Flexibility is always key when traveling, after all it helps us to deal with unforeseen events as well as unexpected pleasures. But now more than ever, it is extra useful to be flexible.
That has to be paired, though, with strong planning. How can both things coexist? They can, even though it requires a little bit of effort. Let’s see how.
First of all, my advice is to plan well in advance what you want to see and where you want to go. With all the limitations about international travels, the required Covid tests, and local regulations, it is fundamental now more than ever to have a clear idea in advance of what you want to do and what you are actually allowed to do. Not all countries are opened to tourists, not all countries let you in without a 2 weeks quarantine, so check official websites and news outlets to know exactly what is going on in the world.
And once you decide, be flexible. Flights can be canceled, countries might witness a sudden surge in cases, lockdowns can be reinforced at any given time. Be flexible with your plans and your tickets. Make sure, when you book, that you can get a free exchange in case your trip has to be postponed, or (even better) a complete refund. Being flexible is not just about being able to face and react to difficulties, it is mostly about being prepared in case they happen.
Check opening hours and book your tickets in advance
This goes hand in hand with the “planning in advance” point above. Make sure you check the opening hours of museums and galleries. If you can, give them a call before visiting (ideally before leaving), so you know exactly when they are open and most of all IF they are actually open to the public at all. Every country has different regulations for museums, galleries, and art centers, so make sure to check what is going on before planning an art trip. You don’t want to waste your time and money in an empty city!
At the same time, when museums and art centers are open, remember to book your tickets in advance. This way you are not only saving time but also making sure the museum is open and you are reserving a spot to visit it at your preferred time. No useless waiting, no queues, and no bad surprises, booking in advance is a win-win for your art trip, and not just during the Covid pandemic.
Galleries: dos and don’ts
Even though we love galleries as much as we love museums, they are not equally ruled in every country. For example in Italy, where I currently live, galleries are compared to regular shops and they are open as long as shops are open. On the contrary, museums are only open when the level of risk is considered the lowest, in the so-called “yellow zone”, and that is why they have been opening and closing many times over the last year.
But all countries are different, and then again there are local and regional rules. My first advice, just like museums, is to check opening hours in advance. Galleries don’t have tickets, therefore you cannot reserve a spot or book your entrance, but you can always reach out to them and ask directly. Considering the times we are living in, I am pretty sure all galleries will be happy to welcome some visitors.
Another piece of advice is to avoid planning your gallery-hopping session over the weekend if you can. Opt for Thursday or Friday, this way you are relatively more sure they are actually open. And try to follow the galleries on social media platforms, like Instagram, as they are more likely to post updates on sudden closures there.
Last but not least, I know this doesn’t apply to everyone, but try to support smaller galleries first. If you are planning to buy an artwork, look for smaller galleries and galleries that work with emerging artists. It is important, now more than ever, to support small businesses to make them survive the pandemic. And if your budget allows you to buy one large piece from a big gallery, maybe this is the right time to start looking into smaller and less pricey artworks. You will get two for the price of one, with the added benefit of helping someone possibly struggling. It’s time to be responsible customers even when it comes to art!
As a disclaimer, I am not advising you to skip visiting bigger galleries, just to offer the same amount of time and consideration to bigger and smaller galleries. For small independent galleries, even a few more posts on Instagram or IG stories can make a lot of differences. Think about it on your next art trip!
Prepare for the visit in advance
Another rather obvious piece of advice, that might not always come to mind, is to prepare for your visit in advance. We were used to having guided tours, printed press releases, and all sorts of printed materials to touch, read, and sometimes just put back. This might not be the case in some museums or art centers, and you might end up visiting an exhibition without having any clue of what you are looking at. Preparing your visit in advance can solve this problem.
Nowadays everyone has a website or a profile on Instagram or Facebook. Do some research, get to know the space and whatever is on display, so you don’t have to panic once you are there. Many museums are offering online guides, audio tracks to use during the visit, even entire apps dedicated to the collection. Dig a little bit deeper into the magic world of the internet, and I am sure you will find everything you need!
Moreover, it might not be a good idea to spend unnecessary time in a room or in front of a text, while visiting an exhibition. If you are well prepared in advance, you can take your time visiting the exhibition, moving around to keep social distancing from other visitors.
Be respectful, but not anxious
Last but not least, be respectful of others visitors and staff members. Always wear your mask, remember to wash your hand, and use the omnipresent hand sanitizer. We have heard this refrain over and over again in the past 12 months, but it is always a good idea to repeat it.
Be respectful of other people waiting for you to move forward to enter a room if there is a max number of people allowed inside. Be respectful of the museum or gallery staff and don’t touch everything because you just feel like doing it. It is a stressful time for everyone, but if we all work together we can resume some sort of normality.
But most of all, don’t be too anxious. If you follow the rules, you wash your hands, wear your mask and keep enough space between you and other people, there is nothing to fear. Museums and galleries are safe spaces, they are rarely crowded these days, people get checked on their way in and the chances of getting infected there is almost zero. Don’t let this situation scare you too much. We must keep alert, but not anxious. We must pay attention, but we can enjoy an exhibition visit when it is allowed.
What do you think? Are you planning to resume your art trips anytime soon?
Hopefully, I am, and I just can’t wait to hop on a plane. What is the first destination you are planning to visit?
I have a whole bucket list, you can find it here. And if you need inspiration or info, check our recent articles.