The square in front of the pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris is empty on March 18. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images
Major events around the world have been canceled or postponed as the race to contain the novel coronavirus continues. The cultural sector — with its numerous fairs, shows and festivals — has also been significantly impacted.
What has been affected: Countless art institutions, museums and galleries have been temporarily shuttered. The Louvre in Paris, which houses the famous “Mona Lisa,” is closed until further notice. A blockbuster exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Italian Renaissance painter Raphael was suspended days after opening in Rome.
Organizers have pulled the plug on Glastonbury, the UK’s largest music festival, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. In New York, the lights are out on Broadway, with performances canceled until mid-April. Fashion’s biggest night, The Met Gala, has been postponed.
Why this is a big deal: Of course, such closures can seem immaterial compared to the public health crisis posed by Covid-19 and its rising death toll. People are getting sick; they are worrying about how to stay safe, access care, look after loved ones or stay in work.
But culture, even during the most extraordinary of times, should not be overlooked. Rather, it should be embraced as means for respite, escape and nourishment. For a brief moment, you can lose yourself in the brushstrokes of a centuries-old painting or feel completely immersed at a live concert.
At a time when misinformation, polarization and blatant hate are particularly confounding, culture can be humanizing and educational. It’s an alternative means by which to digest an increasingly complex and anxiety-fueled world.
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