For the National Gallery’s visitor experience coordinator Tristan Duggan, there is both joy and profound relief in the latest announcements about opening conditions at the NGA.
An easing of COVID-19 restrictions means up to 100 visitors can now pre-register for timed ticket entry every 30 minutes. Priority will be given to visitors who pre-book and walk-up entry will be allowed if tickets are available. It’s especially good news for locals across the region who make the NGA a regular part of their day trips to Canberra.
“Without the visitors, all we are is a large warehouse of art, so there’s not much human purpose to our existence either,” Tristan says.
Visitors have been returning in small groups for the past few weeks.
“It’s been fantastic to welcome back all the good energy to the building. It’s just so good to have visitors back despite the remaining restrictions.”
Those visitors who have been able to return have also enjoyed the space and a slightly more peaceful art-viewing experience without the large crowds that sometimes come at busy times.
The return of visitors is occurring in stages to ensure compliance with public health best practice is maintained. Tristan says that more gallery spaces will be open from today (20 June) although public programs and tours are still a way off.
And, he says, the lockdown has also been hard on the staff whose job and passion it is to welcome visitors, curate their art-viewing and engage with the works.
“Our visitor experience hosts are deeply engaged with the collection and it’s been a long time since they’ve been able to share that passion for the artworks with the general public. It’s more than a job. Their careers and their joy is the art. There’s some real positive energy from the staff, too, as everything begins to ease.”
National Gallery Director Nick Mitzevich said the safety of visitors remained the top priority, but he was excited that more people would be able to see the national collection and current exhibitions.
“Ticketing will continue to be required, to help us monitor numbers through the gallery and assist with contact tracing if it becomes necessary,” he said.
“We are pleased to be able to open up more galleries for visitors to enjoy the art, except for spaces where social distancing might be a little difficult.”
Visitors will now be able to plan their own journey through the gallery but a visit of up to two hours is suggested to help maximise the number of people who can enjoy the gallery and to support a safe environment for all guests.
Some services remain closed due to COVID-19, including cloaking facilities, the NGA Café and Street Café.
Apart from timed entry, current safety measures designed to protect visitors include limited capacity in some galleries (please follow signage recommendations), sanitiser stations throughout the building, additional cleaning in high-traffic areas and high-touch items, and sanitisation of mobility equipment after each use. Visitor experience staff are also on hand to assist visitors and monitor the flow of people through gallery spaces.
Exhibitions open to the public include Belonging: Stories of Australian Art, XU ZHEN®: ETERNITY VS EVOLUTION and, for the first time, The Body Electric, a Know My Name project supported by The Medich Foundation, will go on display in the Orde Poynton Gallery on Level Two on Monday, 22 June.
Learn more at NGA.