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Europe's art treasures back on show as doors to museums open again

ASSOCIATED PRESS | Updated: 2020-06-04 07:18
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People wearing face masks visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museums as they reopened on June 1.[Photo/Agencies]

AMSTERDAM-In the Netherlands, the intimate gaze of the Girl with the Pearl Earring can once again startle and entice visitors. Down in Spain, the rusty maze of steel sheets by Richard Serra is a wonderland anew for art lovers. And in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's Creation of Adam can continue to amaze as it has done for centuries.

As Europe slowly emerges from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed well over 150,000 across the continent and crippled some of the world's biggest economies, Monday saw a brilliant ray of light shine through the gloom as several of the world's top museums reopened to once more flaunt their riches.

All of the Netherlands rejoiced in a relaxing of the lockdown measures that have kept people away from bars, restaurants, cinemas-as well as some of the greatest cultural institutions in the world.

"Welcome back," said Rijksmuseum general director Taco Dibbits as the first visitors filed into the vast museum in central Amsterdam.

At the adjacent Van Gogh Museum the welcome came with, of course, sunflowers. Every visitor leaving the museum was given one of the bright yellow blooms, famously depicted by the Dutch painter's brush, to celebrate the institution's reopening.

Across the continent, museum officials rejoiced as visitors were let in again.

"Today is a day to celebrate, a day of great joy," said Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta, as she welcomed the public back. "The significance of this reopening is hope. It is a great hope that we can return to the normality."

Some 1,600 people reserved tickets in advance to see the Sistine Chapel and its sublime walls and ceilings on the first day the Vatican Museums opened it doors following its three-month coronavirus shutdown.

The show of people delighted Jatta. "I must say today is also a day of double celebration."

During peak summer months, the Vatican Museums routinely would have a line of tourists waiting hours to enter as there was no advance reservation system to schedule visit times.

In so many museums now, the phenomenon of over-tourism is making space for cultural tourism, especially since so few foreign visitors can come in.

Now, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, only able to gaze upward at Michelangelo's ceiling, visitors had space to move and explore the exquisite details of the Renaissance master's work.

Where suffocating throngs once forced everyone along in a sweaty shuffle, the only sensory impediment was a protective mask.

In Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum there were, for once, more people depicted in Rembrandt's Night Watch itself than visitors looking at them.

At the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, the price of one ticket bought this month will include a three-month museum membership.

Museums all over the world have been struggling to get through the pandemic crisis and UNESCO has said that one in eight might have to close their doors for good. Some of the major institutions in Europe have been losing over 2 million euros ($2.2 million) a month.

Steadily, ever more of Europe's main museums will reopen.

In Madrid, the Prado and Reina Sofia open again on Saturday.

In Paris, the Impressionist palace that is the Musee d'Orsay will open from June 23 and on July 6, Mona Lisa can once again flash her enigmatic smile at her legions of admirers when the Louvre opens its doors once more.




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