NGP’s Rembrandt and the National Museum’s 'Kings of the Sun' exhibitions to remain open

An exception to the latest restrictions has been made for two popular shows with valuable items loaned from abroad.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 16.12.2020 11:02 (updated on 16.12.2020)

Two exhibitions with unique artifacts loaned from abroad, Kings of the Sun in the National Museum and Rembrandt: Portrait of a Man at Kinský Palace may still be visited after stricter pandemic rules start, Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said.

Private galleries that deal with the sale of works of art will have the same rules as small retail shops, Zaorálek said on Facebook and the Culture Ministry website.

“I advocated that museums and galleries remain open even after Friday's move to [PES] level 4 — as well as, for example, shops, because they are able to regulate the flow of people very well and adhere to strict hygiene rules. Nevertheless, I was outvoted after a very long discussion,” he said.

He then sought an exemption for certain exhibitions with valuable international items that were created at enormous financial costs and are unrepeatable in the foreseeable future.

Stone head on display in Kings of the Sun. (via National Museum)
Stone head on display in Kings of the Sun. (via National Museum)

“I agreed with the chief hygienist [Dr. Jarmila Rážová] at least on the possibility of an exception for events that are associated with unique foreign loans such as the exhibition Kings of the Sun at the National Museum and Rembrandt: Portrait of a Man in the National Gallery Prague (NPG) in Kinský Palace. It will be possible to visit these events after this Friday, but visitors must take into account special stricter hygienic conditions,” he said, adding that further details will be published online.

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Kings of the Sun presents valuable objects from the ancient Egypt, including Czech Egyptologists’ discoveries in Abusir. The show opened Aug. 31 and is set to run through Feb. 7, 2021.

The National Gallery’s exhibition of works Rembrandt van Rijn, which took years to organize, opened on Sept. 24. Both closed in mid-October and could only reopen Dec. 3 with limited admissions.

The government also confirmed the joint culture subsidy program by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Industry and Trade will continue after the new year starts.

“In addition to existing professions and companies doing business in culture, we want to expand the assistance to other areas that will be affected by ongoing pandemic restrictions,” he said.

Display in Kings of the Sun. (via National Museum)
Display in Kings of the Sun. (via National Museum)

The Czech government decided to move to the fourth level on the PES pandemic scale as of Dec. 18. The country had been at the third level since Dec. 3, which allowed museums, galleries and heritage sites to reopen. Museums and galleries have been allowed to operate at one-fourth of their capacity. Heritage sites could be visited by groups under 10 people.

Some galleries sent a protest letter sent to Zaorálek and Health Minister Jan Blatný (for ANO). The letter says that if galleries are not granted the exemption, they will remain open anyway. This will be similar to some restaurant owners who refused to observe the ordered closing time at 8 p.m.

The appeal is organized by the Olomouc-based Telegraph Gallery, as well as the Prague-based Trafo Gallery and Chemistry Gallery. It has also been signed by Kunsthalle Prague, Václav Spala Gallery, Adolf Loos Apartment and Gallery as well as galleries in České Budějovice, Humpolec, Prachatice, Olomouc, Plzeň and Ostrava.

Separately, incoming National Gallery Prague director Alicja Knast said all cultural institutions will have to change after the experience with measures to curb the coronavirus epidemic, which have lasted almost one year.

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“I do not know any cultural institution that could afford not changing significantly after the series of lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Knast told the Czech News Agency (ČTK). She will assume the post on Jan. 1.

Culture was strongly affected by the pandemic, which has led to a dismal situation for the budgets of both public and private institutions, she added.

“The most important challenge is not to forget what our main role in the society is, namely to be responsive and sustainable at the same time," Knast said.

One of the major tasks she will have to tackle in the new post is the renovation of the functionalist Veletržní palác which houses modern and contemporary art. It was last renovated 25 years ago. She said that careful planning was required, as she has seen rushed projects in her native Poland that were more expensive then they had to be, and which had technical problems.