China's arts industry in the epidemic: Art goes on

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in China from January, the art world has come to a sudden halt. With major museums, fairs, and galleries canceling events and exhibitions all over the world, the industry as a whole is experiencing the strain of the global pandemic. 

Though most galleries remain closed, many are launching online exhibitions and activities to cope with the impact from the virus.

The temporary closure of many galleries has also been taken as an opportunity to reorganize and their collections and resources.

At the official WeChat account of Nation Art Museum of China (NAMOC), 25 exhibitions, such as "Tree of Life - African Woodcarving Art Exhibition" and "China Art Museum Boutique Exhibition" are being displayed virtually. 

On the official website of NAMOC, visitors can take a tour of all the exhibitions from 2012 to 2016 without leaving their homes by just clicking the "online exhibition" column on the website. 

NAMOC has also sorted out the collection of medical-themed artworks and launched an online exhibition called "our respect to medics" during the epidemic outbreak. Wu Weishan, director of NAMOC, said although these works were created at different times, they are full of the respect of the artists for medical workers.

Due to the loss of ticket income during the closure, private art galleries and art institutions are suffering during the epidemic. Some private art galleries have come up with short video showcase and livestreaming, which not only expand the influence of art but also comfort people during the epidemic. 

Within two weeks after its closure, the M WOODS museum, an independent, not-for-profit art museum founded in 2014, rolled out a newly planned virtual exhibition "Art Is Still Here: A Hypothetical Show for a Closed Museum." 

Conceived as a long-term visual project that will virtually occupy both M WOODS museum locations (798 and Hutong), this experimental exhibition will unfold over several weeks. Different galleries of the museum will be open virtually, with accompanying artworks presented online through the museum's online platforms – Weibo, WeChat, Instagram, and Facebook – throughout the show.  

They will showcase artworks, videos, photographs, words, poems, instructions, and thoughts from artists and thinkers around the themes of ecology, nature, extinction, isolation, and kinship.

Although doors to art galleries remain closed, art has not come to a standstill. 

These new attempts at virtual exhibitions are breaking the space barrier to spread art whenever and where ever.

"Art is not a vaccine, but it gives hope," said Gong Yan, director of the Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum.