1217 GMT March 28, 2020
The show ‘Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London,’ was due to open on March 3, at Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art. Because of the coronavirus situation, the Tokyo museum is following instructions from the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology and will remain closed until March 16.
This means that 60 of the National Gallery’s finest paintings, including Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’, which has left Europe for the first time, are now caught up in the Japanese museum quarantine – and are temporarily inaccessible to the international public. Tens of thousands of advance tickets will presumably have already been sold for the time the museum will now be closed, creating problems for both visitors and the organizers, theartnewspaper.com reported.
The number of coronavirus victims in Japan reached 200 on Wednesday, with four deaths. There have also been more than 700 cases and four deaths from the docked cruise ship Diamond Princess at Yokohama. Culture minister Kōichi Hagiuda will review the situation in the next two weeks, and if the outbreak worsens then the closure period is likely to be extended.
A National Gallery statement says that it is “consulting closely with our partners, the National Museum of Western Art and the Yomiuri Shimbun [newspaper publisher], and we hope that the exhibition will be able to open on March 17, 2020, or as soon as possible after that.” The statement adds that “obviously, everything is dependent on [Japanese] government advice in this rapidly changing situation”.
The London gallery spokeswoman was unwilling to say whether the delayed opening will impact financially. The size of the total fee for the loan remains a closely guarded secret, but it is likely to exceed £1m.
‘Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London’ is due to run in Tokyo until June 14. After that it is scheduled to travel to Osaka’s National Museum of Art (from July 7 to October 18).