As One of the First Major Museums to Reopen in California, the de Young Says It Is ‘Ready to Provide Succor’ to San Franciscans

The de Young Museum in San Francisco will reopen for members on September 22 and to the public on September 25, making it the first major art institution in the city, and one of the first in the state, to do so since museums began shuttering in March.

“We are thrilled that we will soon reopen our doors and resume engagement with our friends and communities, especially when California is still undergoing so many hardships,” Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, told Artnet News in an email. “Our air-conditioned galleries are ready to provide succor to those who are weary of the smoky skies and bad air caused by the terrible fires across the state.”

When it opens its doors, the de Young will offer free general admission and discounted special exhibition tickets through December 2021 to essential workers. Advanced reservations are recommended, but a limited of number of tickets will be available each day at the door.

The city of San Francisco announced on Friday that it was giving museums and galleries the green light to reopen beginning September 21, pending approval of their health and safety plans. “A task force with employees across museum departments has been hard at work over the summer, liaising with city authorities and planning and replanning the reopening,” Campbell said.

Vandals spray painted a sign for the upcoming Frida Kahlo exhibit at the de Young Museum during a night when nearby statues of Junipero Serra, U.S. Grant, and Francis Scott Key were toppled in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Crews worked to mitigate the damage early Saturday morning, June 20, 2020. Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/the Mercury News via Getty Images.

Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/the Mercury News via Getty Images.

Other institutions are beginning to announce their plans as well. The Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, will have member preview days on October 1 and 2 before reopening to the public on October 3. The de Young’s sister museum, the Legion of Honor, is looking toward a mid-October reopening.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the city’s Contemporary Jewish Museum have yet to announce opening dates, but are likely feeling pressure to get visitors back inside the museum. Without revenue from admissions, ticketed events, and gift shop and restaurants sales, cultural organizations across the world have been hard hit financially by the year’s extended closures, leading to widespread layoffs in the field.

“We’re an institution that is heavily dependent on earned revenue, so extended closure has had a huge financial impact on our bottom line,” said Campbell. “We were fortunate to receive a federal loan in the late spring and our board and community responded very generously to our recovery fund appeal. Even with these contributions, we were still compelled to make the painful decision to reduce staff a few months into the closure. This was a very hard blow and we are thrilled to be able to bring furloughed staff members back to the museums after reopening.”

The state saw a limited wave of openings in June, but those institutions, including the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, the Laguna Art Museum, and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, were soon forced to shutter once again, when Governor Gavin Newsom issued an order reinstating statewide bans on indoor business activities effective July 13.

California's new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” presents a new color-coded set of reopening guidelines based on the spread of the coronavirus. Courtesy of the state of California.

California’s new “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.” Courtesy of the state of California.

After spiking in July and August, infection rates have dropped across California over the last month. Business restrictions will be loosened based on the number of new cases in a county and the percentage of positive coronavirus tests. Museums can operate at 25 percent capacity in counties that are in tier two, designated red for “substantial” risk levels.

Under the new reopening plan, some institutions in San Diego’s Balboa Park museum complex began welcoming the public on Labor Day weekend, including the San Diego Museum of Art on September 5. Other art institutions that have followed suit include the Laguna Art Museum (September 10) and the Bowers Museum (September 12). The grounds at the Huntington Library, Art, Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino have been open since July 1, but the art galleries and other indoor facilities still remain closed.

At the de Young, returning visitors can catch “Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI,” the group show featuring artist interpretations of the implications of artificial intelligence, which was open for less than a month before lockdown, and “Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving,” which was supposed to debut in March after a blockbuster run at the Brooklyn Museum.

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