NEW YORK (AFP).-
New York's Museum of Modern Art reopened its doors Thursday following a nearly six-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing visitors the rare experience of viewing its works by Monet, Van Gogh and Warhol without the usual throngs of visitors.
MOMA is the first major museum in the Big Apple to reopen to the public since the US cultural capital was hard-hit by the virus, bringing its busy calendar to a halt.
Under the new regulations, and with the tourism sector at a standstill due to the pandemic, only a few art lovers reserved a time slot for the church-like calm of reopening day.
Crowds won't grow much bigger, as the museum will operate at 25 percent of capacity and with the now-usual precautions of social distancing and temperature checks.
"I like galleries not being too crowded and people not talking and people not taking pictures. Everything about it is great," Alan Orenbuch, a 66-year-old retiree and museum regular, told AFP.
"In recent years, it just attracted people who had it on their bucket list when visiting New York, it wasn't the same thing," he said.
A safe space
For now, the MOMA has limited capacity to 100 people per hour, although museum leadership hopes to gradually increase entry numbers, explained Sonya Shrier, the director of visitor engagement.
"It's really a very special time to visit the galleries, because the galleries aren't as crowded, but also, it's such a wonderful opportunity for visitors to gather safely... in a difficult time," she said.
The grand reopening was meticulously planned, and it's "just so gratifying to see the plans in action and the doors open and visitors back," Shrier added.
New York's largest museum, the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, will reopen on Saturday, and the majority of other museums are expected to reopen by early October.
New York City was hit hard by Covid-19 in the spring, with more than 23,600 deaths, but the city has become a model for keeping the pandemic under control, with an infection rate of about one percent.
But New York, normally synonymous with nonstop activity and mass tourism, has yet to fully come back to life, so strong is the fear of a second wave.
Many people continue to work remotely, the business districts are deserted and many stores have yet to reopen.
© Agence France-Presse