In one of the strongest signs yet that the virus is upending the art world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Thursday that it will temporarily close its Fifth Avenue flagship and two other locations — the Met Breuer, on Madison Avenue, and the Met Cloisters in northern Manhattan — starting Friday, March 13, “to support New York City’s effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
The museum, which did not announce a target date to reopen, said it will undertake a thorough cleaning and announce further steps early next week.
“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. He added that the museum had been taking proactive precautionary measures, including discouraging staff travel “to affected areas, implementing rigorous cleaning routines, and staying in close communication with New York City health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.” “While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community, which at this time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible,” Mr. Weiss said.
The Met said it has two employees who have showed symptoms of the virus — one is awaiting a test; the other is at home. The museum — which made its decision in consultation with the mayor’s office — also said it has been preparing for this possibility for several weeks, and is implementing an operational plan, which includes provisions to support salaried and hourly staff.
The announcement comes at a time when the Met is embarking on celebrations of its 150th anniversary; just this week the museum decided to postpone the opening viewing and reception for its anniversary exhibition, “Making The Met, 1870—2020,” planned for March 23.
The Met had previously closed for two days on two occasions:after 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy.
The city’s other major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Guggenheim, have yet to announce similar plans to close, but like many institutions were alert to the potential for closing if confirmed cases of Covid-19 rise.
Even when not closing, museums are scaling back public events and activities. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is canceling “Making Brooklyn Bloom,” planned for March 14, as a precautionary step. The Frick Collection canceled its annual Young Fellow’s Ball, which was to be held on Thursday night. The Smithsonian Museums in Washington and New York remain open but events such as the Earth Day symposium have been canceled or postponed. In the event of a government shutdown, its museums will be closed in consultation with local public health officials.