The Brera through COVID

I have been sent by my friend James Bradburne, the Director of the Brera Gallery in Milan, what he calls his Yule Log, which consists of his thoughts and meditations during the course of the last year, but particularly through the first three months of COVID. I found them curiously and unexpectedly moving, reading his changes of mood as he grappled with having to close a museum down which had remained open through the bombing of the Second World War. It all already seems so horribly long ago: the beauties of spring as he sat it out in Florence; the switch to doing so much online, of which he was already very fortunately an intelligent pioneer; the recollection that COVID hit Lombardy long before it hit London, which should have given us due warning of what was about to happen. The thing which I found most moving was the sense of optimism when the Brera re-opened in early June as if it had then already been such an interminable lockdown which was now believed to be over; plus his thoughtfulness about the things which would need to change – less reliance on big exhibitions, less dependency on mass tourism, more connectedness to the local community, all things which may perhaps be obvious but are stated with unusual thoughtfulness; also how relatively recent the whole boom in mass tourism and visitor numbers has been, owing partly to the invention of the jumbo jet, and how quickly we forget. It’s a private Christmas letter, but some his thoughts are available more publicly:-


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