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Tate, V&A, ICA and Serpentine among major London museums to temporarily close

Plus: Leading UK arts figures call on government to support creative industries | Sotheby’s closes most locations, Christie’s closes last of locations and more fairs postponed | and ancient fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls at Museum of the Bible confirmed by study to be fakes

17 March 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Tate, V&A, ICA and Serpentine among major London museums to temporarily close | Several major London museums have announced today that they will close temporarily following prime minister Boris Johnson’s advice to UK citizens yesterday that they should avoid ‘non-essential’ travel and social contact to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Tate is the first institution to announce that it will close all four of its sites until 1 May, with the offer to refund exhibition tickets. The Victoria & Albert Museum will close all its sites from tomorrow, citing the advice of Public Health England. The British Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery, Serpentine Galleries, ICA London, South London Gallery, Camden Arts Centre and the Barbican are also shutting until further notice. The National Gallery will close on 19 March.

Leading UK arts figures call on government to support creative industries | Several leading UK arts figures have called on the government to do more to support cultural institutions financially as they close their doors to the public. Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England says that the government advising rather than mandating that audiences stop attending theatres and museums ‘is catastrophic for lots of our businesses because that means they can’t claim on their insurance’. Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, is calling on the government to offer an ‘emergency fund’ to support museums, suggesting that they redirect the £120m budget allocated to the UK-wide ‘festival of Britain’ planned for 2022. UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said that the government is working with Arts Council England to arrange more support and ‘ensure the arts sector stays strong’. 

Sotheby’s closes most locations, Christie’s closes last of locations and more fairs postponed | Sotheby’s is closing most of its auction houses indefinitely, including those in Paris, Geneva, Milan, Zurich, and Dubai, and has postponed several major sales. Its London offices remain open while its Hong Kong offices are open to visitors by appointment only. Christie’s, who have closed most of their locations internationally, closed its London office yesterday, instructing employees to work from home for the next two weeks. Among the latest art fairs to be postponed are Marfa Invitational, moved from April to 13–16August, Object & Thing, now taking place from 13–15 November instead of in May and Future Fair’s inaugural edition in New York, which was slated for May but will be rescheduled for the autumn.

Ancient fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls at Museum of the Bible confirmed by study to be fakes | A report published online by Art Fraud Insights has confirmed that 16 fragments labelled as remnants of ancient Dead Sea Scrolls are deliberate forgeries, likely produced in the 20th century. The artefacts, which were bought by Steve Green for his family-owned Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, have been the subject of a six-month investigation using chemical analysis, which has concluded that the fakes were likely made using Roman-era leather and the forged handwriting of ancient Hebrew scribes. 

Lead image: used under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)