By Sarah Crew for The Bulletin - 22 April 2020
Brussels contemporary art gallery Maruani Mercier has launched an online petition to reopen museums and galleries during the coronavirus confinement period.
Using the hashtag #arthealscovid-19, it is collecting signatures in a bid to persuade politicians and policy makers to reverse their position on the closure of cultural institutions. While major gatherings have been banned until 31 August, a decision on exhibitions and smaller cultural events is due on 3 May.
“We can easily respect social distancing and during the lockdown period we would recommend a 16m2 space per person leaving the person four meters away from the next,” says the gallery.
“Every room has a security guard, so it is easy to implement. In museums or art galleries you don’t touch anything, so no gloves are needed,” it adds.
The gallery has been garnering support from the art world since the campaign launch. Four international artists have confirmed a donation: Arne Quinze (Belgium), Hank Willis Thomas (US), Manuel Mathieu (Canada) and Jaclyn Conley (Canada). The latter, a NY-based artist, sent the gallery an artwork (pictured, above) on Wednesday morning, it reports. Proceeds from the sale will go to the artist residency programme NXTHVN.
The campaign is also uniting under the banner Art Heals! to highlight the importance of culture in maintaining positive mental health, drawing on a 2019 World Health Organisation report on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being.
“It found evidence … for the potential value of the arts in contributing to core determinants of health, playing a critical role in health promotion, helping to prevent the onset of mental illness and age-related physical decline, supporting the treatment or management of mental illness, noncommunicable diseases and neurological disorders, and assisting in acute and end-of-life care,” says the WHO report.
The Maruani Mercier gallery in Avenue Louise quotes Winston Churchill in its campaign. When asked to reduce arts funding during WWII, the wartime prime minister famously riposted: “If it is not for our culture then what are we fighting for?”
Bozar CEO Paul Dujardin (pictured, above) similarly refers to the British politician and amateur artist in a call to save the arts on Tuesday. “During the Second World War, Winston Churchill ordered that the paintings in the National Gallery be moved to a mine in Wales. But the museum stayed open. Once a month, a painting was brought back to London and exhibited… How appropriate to this lockdown!,” he says.
Dujardin’s suggestions for “a safe and sustainable exit from the lockdown” include some timely insights.
“Art can't beat coronavirus - only science can do that - but art will be vital in healing the wounds inflicted by the crisis.
“Today we need the world to save art, only to ensure that the roles will be reversed afterwards. Soon our artists will be sorely needed to lend shape, sense and content to the post-coronavirus era,” adds the widely-respected arts figure.
The cultural institution’s Bozar at home is an online cultural programme that is running during the confinement period.