If concerts, shows and visits to museums continue to be guaranteed free of charge online to everyone, even in crisis conditions, such during the COVID19 pandemic, it will be even more difficult to obtain the protection that cultural operators have legitimately claimed for their sector for years.
Art at the time of the Coronavirus is present, loud and clear and wants to make itself felt. This happens because those who have made art a job, have shown extraordinary generosity and altruism in recent weeks - despite the precariousness, on-call contracts and poor protections. Museum guides are unpaid as their institutions are closed to the public; theatre ushers are unpaid as they work only when the show is on. This is also the case for musicians, singers, artists.
This phenomenon is not sufficiently brought to the attention of the public, as cultural institutions are showing off their best collections, operas, masterpieces in the “online experience.” It is never emphasized how the performance is put on stage, how the collection is maintained and described, and studied: in the era of customer engagement through online experience, it is the workers who pay the consequences.
When factories are on lockdown, production is stopped and no one expects the workers to produce. In the case of art, a solution was found to continue to spread the benefits and positive experiences it generates. From online visits at the infinite halls of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, discovery of the treasures of the Egyptian Museum of Turin, free digital performances by some of the best orchestras in the world to recorded theatrical performances. Since the emergency of COVID 19 has intensified, we have witnessed a wave of shows streamed by individual performers who use cell phone cameras to get in touch with the public.
There are daily concerns about the future of festivals, theaters, museums and orchestras. Activities are postponed, structure’s closed and festivals and will be rescheduled whenever possible. However, what does not stop is the very creativity, passion and artistic vein of those who carry out a profession in these sectors.
It is a manifestation of generosity that everyone apparently is urged to express and which leads us to hypothesize a new way of interacting with art, which can also be approached and appreciated online. Now the paradigm changes: will people still want to meet together at a concert or in a museum? Will it be worth going in person if you can access everything from home or your device?
When all this is over we will have to deal with the risk of relegating the operators of cultural sector in a neglected corner, that everyone talks about and that everyone appreciates and praises but that nobody seriously thinks of protecting. The ardor for art and culture is so strong in those who work in the secotr, that at the end of the day they will give their professional work for free as they love so much what they are doing.
SDA Bocconi School of Management