Hong Kong and South Korea Museums reopen with caution

8 May 2020

Hong Kong Museum of Art is issuing daily admission slips as part of its preventive measures. Image via Wikipedia.

Written by Charmaine Kong and published originally by ArtAsiaPacific, 06 May 2020.

Public museums are resuming services as the spread of Covid-19 slows in Hong Kong, which has had no locally transmitted cases for 16 consecutive days, and in South Korea, where daily increase of cases have dropped to around ten last week. The Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA) and all four venues of South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) in Seoul, Deoksugung, Gwacheon, and Cheongju have reopened today under strict health measures.

Both institutions have implemented precautionary measures to ensure public safety akin to the 20-point list released by the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) on April 29, which urged museums to follow best practices of museums in Asia amid the pandemic. The list recommends measures such as temperature and travel history monitoring of visitors, and suspension of guided tours.

To limit visitor flow, HKMoA is issuing daily admission slips on-site at two-hour intervals between its opening hours of 10am to 5pm, with visitors allowed to enter only during their allocated two-hour long sessions, although the museum’s website does not indicate how it plans to enforce this time limit. Six exhibitions have reopened, including “A Sense of Place: from Turner to Hockney” featuring British landscape paintings on loan from Tate, and “Hong Kong Experience • Hong Kong Experiment,” showcasing works tracing the development of the city’s art scene. Guided tours and public programs continue to be suspended.

Meanwhile, MMCA venues, which are open from 10am to 6pm, are implementing mandatory online bookings. According to The Korea Herald, the daily number of admissions will be curtailed from 50 to 200. As part of the online booking procedure, visitors will be asked about their travel histories. Like HKMoA, visitors to MMCA will have their temperatures checked prior to entry, and are required to wear face masks.

Since the virus outbreak, operations of the two institutions have been severely impacted. HKMoA was closed on January 29 but reopened briefly on March 11, only to close again on March 23 amid a second wave of Covid-19 due to a surge in number of imported cases. Similarly, MMCA shuttered all four venues on February 24 to limit further contagion. 

Both museums have kept an active online presence to engage with the public and maintain momentum for the arts. HKMoA’s website allows homebound audiences to browse pamphlets, audio guides, and multi-media programs for several of its exhibitions, including an animated video of “A Day at HKMoA” which features a young girl exploring the museum and viewing several highlights currently on display in the galleries. MMCA, among other digital initiatives, livestreamed an online preview of the group exhibition “Axis of Horizon” via Instagram (@mmcakorea) on April 16, during which curator Yang Ok-kum gave a tour of the series of nature-themed pieces in the show, which range from video installations to landscape paintings.