Finally, a step-by-step resume the Uffizi Gallery in Florence is one of the largest art collections not only in Europe but in the world. The main building, which holds thousands of masterpieces, including “Spring” and “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, will open on June 3 – just in this day Italy is planning to remove restrictions on entry to its neighbors in the EU. In the midst of the preparations, “RG” phoned to the Director of the Galleries, German art historian Eike Schmidt. How will the trip to the temple of art on the background of the pandemic in some countries, museums hardest hit from the “crown” and want humanity to return from the virtual exhibitions “living” pictures – this Mr. Schmidt said in an interview “RG”.

Uffizi Gallery went to the quarantine on 8 March. What feelings did you experience when the Museum halls were empty? What’s it like to suddenly be alone with the masterpieces of world painting and sculpture?

Eike Schmidt: it may seem that it is even a privilege, if not the most important thing: the Galleries were closed due to an emergency situation involving a threat to human health. I had a little feel as if I was inside the paintings of de Chirico (Italian surrealist artist – approx. ed.). He portrayed an empty space filled with antique statues, – and not a soul around. More recently, in a Museum of seething life, and suddenly the vacuum. The art was created for the audience, but the audience disappeared. Silence, did not bring peace. Very strong – and very sad experience! This silence was broken the sounds of sirens ambulance under Windows – and so continued throughout March. But gradually the sirens began to subside, the streets became busier. This is encouraging. Fortunately, none of our employees got sick. Most we have shifted to remote work from home, remained the only representatives of the security services, technicians and restorers who regularly perform bypass of the Museum. And, of course, myself. The last three weeks we’ve been preparing the Gallery for opening. Struck on the floor markings, to allow visitors to keep a distance, set everywhere the disinfectant gel for hands, and at the entrance scanners for remote measurement of body temperature, just like in airports. Those who have it will be increased, you will not be able to go inside. And, of course, common to the whole of Italy the requirement to wear protective masks in public places will act with us. By the way, in the recently opened Boboli Gardens (part of the Museum complex – approx. ed.) also impossible to walk without masks. The Italians in recent weeks used to them, although not all. I admit, I’m not used to. But those are the orders of the Ministry of health, and we need them sobludat��.

when do you think the Uffizi Gallery and other museums in Europe will be able to return to his former life? And will return if at all?

Eike Schmidt: of Course, I want to believe that once all of these technical requirements will remain in the past. Perhaps they’ll cancel, even at the beginning of next year, if there was a vaccine. And you may have to wait another two or three years until the population will not develop sufficient immunity. But I hope that the day will come when we will again be able to go to museums without masks, as in a former life. Another thing that in this former life, there were many problems. Florence, Venice, Barcelona and other European cities suffered from what is called “excessive tourism”. I hope that from this crisis we will be able to make some positive experience. Perhaps in the future museums will become less superficial and more meaningful, measured. And these three months we worked very hard on digital technology and hope to develop them further.

the Galleries of the Uffizi appeared account TikTok (mobile app for short videos – approx. ed.)!

Eike Schmidt: Yes, exactly (laughs). Account TikTok – for teenagers, a page on Facebook for children. We try to attract audience of different ages. In Instagram we post to our followers online reproductions of paintings accompanied by texts that invite to reflection, to discussion. Approximately four thousand people a day visit the virtual thematic tours on the Museum’s website. And anyone can make a 3D journey through the new halls of the Venetian paintings by masters of the XVI century.

what if after a pandemic, people get used to seeing paintings from the comfort of home? What is the future for museums, if the digital format will prevail over traditional?

Eike Schmidt: I think that this will not happen. Digital reality will never replace the Museum space, even if it as closely as possible to imitate. This is a completely different experience of art. When we are preparing virtual content, then expect that it will serve as a useful addition to the trip to the Museum, will help you better prepare for it. In the context of pandemic digital format became the temporary alternative to the real meeting with pictures. But a full replacement it will never be.

At the time of the Florentine dynasty of the Medici began to collect the art that formed the kernel then the Uffizi, one of the oldest museums in Europe. The very notion of “Museum” in the usual sense – emerged in Florence. Turns out centuries later to museums around the world have to fight to keep its mission to remain a part of the urban space open to people…

AIke Schmidt: you Only need to specify the historical moment. The beginning of the collection really was laid under the Medici in the fifteenth century. It has become one of the most significant in all of Italy, and all over the world. But a few centuries, these objects of art remained hidden from the General public. Unless the other princes, members of the nobility had access to them. So that the artist could come and admire the treasures, to sketch them, it was necessary to have a letter of recommendation to the Grand Duke. The majority of Florentines knew about these treasures only by hearsay and had never seen them until 1769. It was then that the Uffizi was first opened to the General public by decision of the Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo. Progressive ruler of a new dynasty of Habsburg-Lotharingen made a lot of important distributed land to the peasants, reformed the schools, the first in the world have abolished the death penalty. Based on their ideas about the role of education, Pietro Leopoldo decided to make the Museum accessible to all citizens. So the Uffizi became part of the urban space.

meanwhile, the “crown” has challenged the usual appearance of cities cannot be imagined without cultural objects. UNESCO has estimated that a victim of a pandemic is about one in eight Museum, or 13 percent of all museums in the world. You agree with such a gloomy forecast?

Eike Schmidt: Yes, it is. The current crisis in the economy, which stems from the crisis in health care, was sentenced to extinction, according to some estimates, from 10 to 30 percent of museums in the country. In the US, almost a third of museums may not open after quarantine. The financial position of many so badly that they have to lay off employees and sell off the collection. A somewhat different situation in Europe, where most of the museums are state or communal. They can still count on extra protection. But I fully admit that some small European museums will be closed for several years for economic reasons.

And what about the Galleries of the Uffizi?

Eike Schmidt: Losses have already exceeded 12 million euros. Some projects had to be postponed to 2021. But none has been fully collapsed. Thanks to private sponsorship contributions ongoing restoration work on the frescoes in the halls of the maps. By the way, soon we going to open the exhibition with Russian icons. I think a good reason for Russians to visit Florence – of course, when this becomes possible.