Anasthasia Shilov, Illustrations Editor

After six months of closed doors, the Yale Center for British Art reopened to the public last Friday. The center’s decor now includes arrow decals on the floor and widely spaced works of art to create a socially distanced traffic flow.

“Our hope is that we can reopen to visitors in a safe, albeit limited way,” said Beth Miller, the YCBA’s deputy director for advancement and external affairs. “We look forward to welcoming everyone.”

The YCBA aims to provide the public with opportunities to see British art while keeping visitors safe. The center has instituted several new safety protocols which will alter viewers’ experiences.

“In light of COVID-19, we have created a one-way [traffic] flow through our galleries to ensure that our visitors are spaced-out and physically distanced,” said Kristin Dwyer, the YCBA’s special events and advancements coordinator and a member of the center’s COVID reopening team. Instead of using the 1080 Chapel St. entrance, visitors will exit through the gift shop. The shop remains closed for now, but the center plans to transition to e-commerce soon.

Miller added that the center will not offer in-person tours, host groups or organize public programs. Yet in some ways, the new safety precautions might improve the viewers’ experience, according to Miller, who said that having fewer people in galleries will allow visitors to experience the spaces and art in a more intimate way.

Courtesy of Ronnie Rysz

Currently on view at the YCBA is an exhibition called “Love, Life, Death, and Desire: An Installation of the Center’s Collections.” Art in this exhibition comes from the center’s collections, including the permanent half of British contemporary artist Damien Hirst’s “In and Out of Love (Butterfly Paintings and Ashtrays).” Hirst’s installation, which launched him into global renown, was first shown at the YCBA in 1991.

Also on display is an exhibition called “Contemporary Designer Bookbindings from The Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert.” It features the works of designer bookbinder George Kirkpatrick alongside pieces by bookbinders Susan Allix, Hannah Brown, Gabrielle Fox, Michael Wilcox and Robert Wu. This exhibition has been extended through Nov. 29.

Despite its in-person reopening, the YCBA will continue to host virtual resources on its website.

“We realize that not everyone will have the opportunity or feel comfortable visiting us now, so we plan to try to simulate the experience with a virtual tour of our installation to provide everyone a glimpse of what is currently on view,” said Miller.

The center will also continue its “at home” Artists in Conversation series and “at home” Performances series. Miller said the center also plans to offer an “at home” lessons series for teachers.

Martina Droth, the YCBA’s deputy director of research, exhibitions and publications and curator of sculpture, said that the “at home” artists’ talks both speak to independent themes and complement the center’s in-person exhibits. “We have selected artists who are featured in our collections or with whom we are developing exhibitions or have worked with in various ways,” Droth said.

Miller expressed disappointment about the inability to host high school groups and classes at the center. But with fewer opportunities to travel, she hopes local and regional communities will “take advantage of the opportunity to visit something closer to home.”

YCBA Director Courtney J. Martin said this reopening has been long-anticipated by staff at the center.

“Staff across the center have worked extremely hard to make [reopening] possible,” she said. “We are very excited to welcome everyone back to our new collection exhibitions.”

The center’s new hours are from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Annie Radillo | annie.radillo@yale.edu