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The day museums reopened 

© Isabella De Maddalena

“For my part, I believe that the battle must be conducted in another way: by giving concrete demonstration of the possibilities and potential of the museum as a weapon of active culture,
even in the state of disintegration in which the museum finds itself.”

"It is necessary to break the crystallized image of the museum, demonstrating that it is possible to experience our daily life relationship with reality through free dialogue with objects of nature and with the testimonies of history."

Franco Russoli, in: Il Museo come esperienza sociale, national conference 4-5-6 December 1971. Taken from: Senza utopia non si fa la realtà. Scritti sul museo. Skira.

The Comforting Power Of Art
When museums reopened after the lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, I wondered how the pandemic and accompanying months of physical distance from art institutions had changed the relationship visitors had with the art itself and how it is used.

I asked myself if this break had added urgency and intensified our need for beauty.

Art is certainly a comfort for the soul, a means that can connect us with something greater than ourselves, a way to reach a sensation of spiritual wholeness that everyday life doesn’t always offer. It’s sometimes an ally to help us overcome moments of crisis or discover a new interpretation of reality.

Between May and July 2020, I went to six Milanese museums on their first day open after the lockdown: the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, the Nocevento Museum, Palazzo Reale, the Brera Art Gallery and the PAC – Contemporary Art Pavilion.

I met the museum directors, visitors, security guards, and the heads of educational services. I asked them to share their perspectives about the prospects for the future: how is the experience of art changing in a world altered by the pandemic?
I asked visitors how they felt upon being reacquainted with art, how they had replaced the lack of this space and contact during the most difficult months of the pandemic, and how important art was in their lives as a whole.

Universally, they expressed the feeling that the virtual can never fully replace the real experience of art they felt in their bodies when viewing it in person.

As Stella, a visitor on the first day the PAC - Contemporary Art Pavilion - reopened said: "a work of art can touch you only by standing in front of it.”

-Isabella De Maddalena.

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