When museums and art galleries install exhibitions, art handlers often suit up for the task with gloves and sometimes masks—sometimes even medical grade masks—to keep from breathing in noxious paint fumes and construction dust. But amid the global health crisis, many institutions have to come to realize that those medical supplies are urgently needed by the health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s why institutions as varied as the Brooklyn Museum, Christie’s, the Frick Collection, and Pace gallery have raided their storerooms to donate leftover N95 masks, nirile gloves, and other medical supplies to hospitals and other medical professionals in need.

“With so many of our city’s hospital workers facing massive shortages of essential medical supplies, it’s urgent everyone does their part—including our city’s great museums,” said Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak. “We just sent 2,800 gloves, normally used for conservation, to the front lines.”

Collectively, the art organizations’ efforts have seen at least 23,360 gloves, 338 N95 masks, 510 masks, 300 protective booties, and 75 Tyvek aprons delivered to the medical professionals who need them most.

As the pandemic continues to spread, with hospital beds rapidly filling up with critically ill Americans, many medical facilities find themselves with a dire shortage of protective gear. On Friday, the US Conference of Mayors released the results of a survey of 41 cities across the country, which found that 90 percent of cities did not have adequate mask supplies for emergency workers.

At least one nurse in New York—which is the epicenter of the US outbreak—Kious Kelly, has already died working at a hospital where staff were reportedly using garbage bags in place of medical-grade protective gear.

“There is a severe shortage of protective equipment for our frontline workers in New York who are risking their own health to protect our families and community,” said Marc Glimcher, Pace’s CEO and president (who was recently diagnosed with coronavirus himself, according to the Canvas). “Pace is responding to the shortage by donating the supply of gloves and masks we have at our New York locations to our city’s hospitals.”

Pace is also supporting the efforts of its employees Hansi Liao and Echo He, who have helped found a new organization, N95 for NYC, to source personal protective equipment from medical suppliers in China. An order of 10,000 Dasheng N95 masks, 20,000 Jinghong surgical masks, and 350 BIOSIS HEALING Medical Protective Coveralls is on its way to New York, and the group has already collected $57,000 in donations.

The Museum of Arts and Design donated nine N95 masks, 3,500 Nitrile gloves, 2 Tyvek suits to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

The Museum of Arts and Design donated nine N95 masks, 3,500 Nitrile gloves, 2 Tyvek suits to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design.

Some donations are small: Dealer Timothy Taylor donated 19 N95 masks and 260 nitrile gloves to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, while the Museum of Arts and Design sent nine N95 masks, 3,500 Nitrile gloves, and two Tyvek suits to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. But each and every mask or set of gloves means one more doctor or nurse who is protected from COVID-19, and able to treat the patients suffering from this deadly disease.

“Now is a time for all of us to come together to help our fellow New Yorkers,” said Maria Bueno, a partner at Cheim and Read, which supplied 1,200 nitrile gloves to NewYork Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. “We are proud to make this small donation to get our gloves into the right hands.”

Other artists and groups interested in making similar donations can reach out to organizations such as PPE1 NYC, a coalition of New York City medical students who are on the front lines identifying shortage spots. Artists have also started a network for medical supply donations, called the Mask Crusaders, which connects artists or institutions with spare protective gear to needy medical institutions.

“No number is too small,” arts publicist Molly Krause, who has been encouraging institutions to connect with PPE1 NYC, told Artnet News. She got involved after seeing an Instagram post from Gregory Reynolds, a preparator at the Whitney Museum, which showed a box containing the museum’s donation of N95 masks and nitrile gloves—and learning that her own father, a physician in Pennsylvania, had been treating potential COVID-19 patients without a protective mask.

“I want it to become a standard course of action,” she added. “Everyone in the art industry with gloves just sitting around, masks sitting around collecting dust—donate them.”

The following art groups have all donated—or pledged to donate once they have access to their facilities—supplies of personal protective equipment to medical professionals experiencing supply shortages during the current global health crisis: 

Cheim & Read
The Frick Collection
Jack Shainman
SRI (art handling company)
Timothy Taylor
Museum of Arts and Design
The Brooklyn Museum
David Zwirner
The Morgan Library and Museum
Richard Prince Studio
Swoon Studio
Mana Contemporary
Sean Kelly
Lehmann Maupin

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