Arts & Entertainment

Galleries Galore Post Lockdown

Sally Mowbray at Chrissie Cotter Hall. Photo: Nick Langley - Inner West Council

By Rida Babar

Find out which galleries are open and free to visit, as well as the exciting arrival of new exhibitions.

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, Sydney art galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), the Maritime Museum, TAP Gallery, and the DuckRabbit are reopening, introducing the new normal for Sydney’s art scene.

After around eight weeks of closure, art institutions rushed to plan their reopening after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that galleries and museums would be able to reopen, with restrictions. These included capacity not exceeding one person per four square metres, the closures of enclosed spaces like theatrettes, and each facility having a COVID-19 safety plan.

As issued by the director of the AGNSW, Michael Brand, the gallery reopened on June 1, in both the Domain and Brett Whitely Studio.

Main exhibitions Shadow Catchers, Under The Stars, and Some Mysterious Process have opened, free of charge.

AGNSW’s measures as part of their COVID-safe plan include limiting visitor numbers, timed ticketing, physical distancing, and recommended hygiene measures.

The MCA followed a similar path, reopening on June 16 with the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN and the sculpture terrace open for visitors to enjoy free of charge.

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney, a major international exhibition, will be extended for display as it was only open for 10 days before the gallery was closed.

When asked what she was most excited for concerning the MCA’s reopening, gallery Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said, “I am excited that our audiences will be able to experience this important and timely exhibition in person. We have had such good feedback about our online content for this exhibition, such as virtual tours and artist interviews and our online museum guide. I know many people are looking forward to seeing it up close in the galleries.”

The MCA will implement health, hygiene, and safety practices in accordance with the NSW government’s guidelines. These include an increase in cleaning, providing hand sanitiser and handwashing facilities, and using distance markers for queuing.

Unlike other galleries, the MCA will not be using timed ticketing. On this Macgregor said, “We were able to carefully monitor numbers before the MCA closed, so we are confident we will be able to do this when we reopen without timed ticketing.

“We’re keen that visitors are still able to pop into the galleries on their lunch break to see the exhibition, shop at the MCA Store or have lunch up on our rooftop terrace, and are ensuring that this is possible within COVID safe guidelines.”

The Maritime Museum, which reopened on June 22 after an 8 week closure will be incorporating new procedures as a part of their COVID-safe plan.

Changes to operations include pre-booked sessions, social distancing, cleaning, and changes to high contact exhibition experiences including the submarine, 3D cinema, and children’s play activities. This is to reduce the amount of person-to-person contact.

The Maritime Museum is also offering new programs, as shared by a spokesperson of the museum.

A Mile In My Shoes is an innovative and immersive art experience, which the Maritime Museum is hoping to bring to Sydney. The exhibition, originally held at the UK Empathy Museum invites visitors to walk in a giant shoebox to ultimately understand what shaped other people’s stories.

The museum’s goal is to capture up to 35 Australian immigrant stories, displaying the project to the public for free as part of the Sydney Festival in 2021. Due to museum budgeting setbacks because of COVID-19, the museum is accepting online donations which will go towards funding the project.

The other new exhibitions at the Maritime Museum are Under The Southern Skies, Here: Kupe To Cook, Cook And The Pacific, and Ship And Shore: The History And Legacy Of Cook’s Voyage.

The spokesperson said, “We are urging all visitors to pre-book online to ensure we can accommodate them and prevent unnecessary queuing, and are adopting contactless payment in the museum to minimise risk.”

Entry to the museum’s permanent galleries is free, but ticketed entry is required for specific exhibitions, the prices of which can be found on the museum’s website.

The Chrissie Cotter Gallery in Camperdown has just opened an exhibition called Wild Weeds, inspired by how “weeds are often isolated…I like their toughness combined with delicacy and the sense of resilience I think they represent,” as said by the artist.

TAP Gallery is currently open, with a maximum of 10 people allowed in at any given time. They are running weekly painting classes, which have proven very popular.

While the interactive side of many museums has been ruled out indefinitely, these Sydney galleries are doing their part to revitalise and reintroduce people to the world of art and entertainment despite the ongoing situation.

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