“We’ve been looking forward to this decision for a long time and preparing for various different scenarios,” Mr Brand said.
The gallery will introduce timed tickets in half hourly batches to control the number of people visiting but there will be no restriction on the length of time patrons can stay. Management is still working out the absolute number that will be allowed inside.
“It’ll be a little bit different out the front but hopefully once you get inside it will be pretty much the same experience that people have always enjoyed,” Mr Brand said.
Planning continues for the postponed Archibald Prize, which Mr Brand said was “absolutely going to happen” towards the end of the year.
Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Elizabeth Ann Macgregor said she was “absolutely thrilled” at the announcement and that the MCA should open by “mid-June”.
“We have to reopen,” Ms Macgregor said. “What’s the point of a museum if it’s shut?
“We know the capacity of every gallery. We have clickers and staff on the door and they will count them in.”
The MCA would introduce a timed ticket system only if it was made mandatory, Ms Macgregor said.
“We don’t want to [do that] because I want you to be able to be walking past on the way to get a cup of coffee and pop in and see what’s on,” Ms Macgregor said. “I don’t like the idea of it but if it’s a health requirement then we will have to do it.”
However, the gallery will not be able to open any of its hospitality venues, leaving a $4 million hole, about 30 per cent, in its annual budget.
“We feel it is our civic duty to open,” Ms Macgregor said. “We’ve got JobKeeper so we have staff to do that until September but in the back of my mind I’m going, ‘the financial situation is terrifying’.”
Visitor numbers at any given time will be restricted to comply with NSW Health guidance which includes allowing for four square metres a person, providing distance markers, enhanced cleaning and the introduction of online ticketing systems. Entry to groups and tours is also not allowed.
When it comes to smaller galleries, Paddington’s Wagner Contemporary will allow 10 people at a time in one-hour pre-booked timeslots. Director Nadine Wagner said she was “thrilled”.
“After being in lockdown 10 people is just wonderful,” Ms Wagner said. “The gallery is a space where you actually don’t touch anything. You engage with what’s on the walls, it’s actually a very safe space.”
Down the road, UNSW Galleries will allow 20 visitors at a time across the building’s three spaces.
“Thankfully the architecture of our space allows us to direct people through one entrance and we’re able to control the movement of people,” director Jose Da Silva said.
Campbelltown Arts Centre will open on June 1, while visitors will be allowed into Chippendale’s high-profile White Rabbit Gallery on June 6.
Nick Galvin is Arts Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald
Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.