Over the weekend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, was among the first major art museums in the U.S. to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. New protocols for visitors are in place, from the required wearing of masks and temperature testing, to timed tickets for entry and social distancing of six feet between household groups.
While Gov. Greg Abbott allowed Texas museums to reopen on May 1 at 25 percent capacity, many museums have opted to remain temporarily closed. (A recent projection model predicts that Harris County, which includes Houston, could see over 2,000 new covid-19 cases each day by June.)
“We recognize that circumstances may change at any moment," museum director Gary Tinterow said in a statement.
MFAH is able to bring in 900 visitors at a time to its 300,000 square feet of gallery space. The museum managed to avoid staff layoffs or furloughs, unlike many other cultural institutions, during the two-month shutdown, according to the New York Times. The MFAH has a $1.3 billion endowment contributing to its annual budget.
Visitors can view collection highlights and special exhibitions including Francis Bacon: Late Paintings; Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library; Radical: Italian Design 1965–1985; and Through an African Lens: Sub-Saharan Photography from the Museum’s Collection.
Also, visitors can stroll through Bayou Bend, the former home of Ima Hogg (1882–1975) situated on 14 acres of organically maintained gardens in Houston’s historic River Oaks neighborhood. This MFAH house museum has one of the foremost collections of American decorative arts and paintings.