Reports from the art trade suggest that galleries and auction houses in the UK may be able to start re-opening from June 1st. The Art Newspaper reports that Freya Simms, chief executive of trade body LAPADA, has confirmed with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that galleries and auction houses can be recognised as ‘non-essential retail’, included in Phase 2 of the easing of lockdown starting on June 1st.
The government’s 60-page document Our Plan to Rebuild contains no specific reference to galleries or auction houses, but art trade associations including LAPADA, the Society for London Art Dealers (SLAD) and The British Art Market Federation (BAMF) have been lobbying for them to be included in plans for a safe return to work.
Back of house
Now Freya Simms has been told that “Anyone who works back-of-house who cannot work from home can go back into an auction house or gallery to do things like cataloguing or photography. Customer facing staff will be part of phase two, probably in June.”
According to reports, auction house staff and dealers would be allowed to visit clients or prospective clients in their homes, providing appropriate social distancing can be maintained and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided.
But cultural centres such as museums are not included in Phase two, and will probably be considered as part of Phase 3, not opening before July 4th.
The news follows reports that auctions in France are re-opening within certain limitations, and that Christie’s is resuming key activities such as cataloguing and photography, while Sotheby’s has stated “We look forward to further announcements from the government which will help determine when we can resume live auctions.”