A Moveable Feast: Art in the Time of Pandemonium

The COVID-19 pandemic has capsized much of life as we’ve known it for weeks. How are our local artists, museums and galleries handling it?

“The Curtain” pastel over charcoal and monotype on laid paper mounted on board, sheet by Edgar Degas circa 1880 from the “Degas at the Opéra” exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

Alexandria, VA – Any other April, tourism in Alexandria and the entire DMV would be nearing full tilt. Winter had at long last succumbed to the siren songs of spring. Cherry Blossom Fever lingered in the air, cafes al fresco would be back in business, spring festivals marked on the calendar, and art’s muse all around.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has capsized much of life as we’ve known it for weeks. Public and private events have scrambled to reboot calendars, with cancellations and extensions inevitable and oftentimes moot.

The local art scene has been hit hard. When Governor Ralph Northam mandated that public gatherings either cannot take place or cannot exceed more than ten people at a time, the City closed the Torpedo Factory Art Center to the public. The Art League had already cancelled exhibits in their gallery, classes, and special events. Target Gallery Director Leslie Mounaime stated that no scheduled exhibits will be cancelled, but there will be their dates will be shuffled.

The Target Gallery extended its 10th Annual March150 Special Exhibition and Art Sale through May 31. March 150 is an open show, without jury, that attracts area professionals, Torpedo Factory studio artists, art students, and hobbyists who donate their work created on uniform 10×10 inch wood panels, all of which are priced to sell for $150.

Originally named March Madness after the annual college basketball tournament, the fundraiser has always been one of the best attended and most successful events of the year. When else can you score an original Guy Jones, whose exquisite allegorical works run into the thousands, for only $150? Many of the most popular Torpedo Factory artists donate their work and competition for the first-come/first-served purchases is fierce.

Once the show was hung, nose-and hand-prints were often found covering the glass doors before opening day, with a long queue waiting for doors to open. But not this year. Remaining artwork may be viewed online on Target Gallery’s Facebook album. You can call or email the gallery at (703)746-4590 or targetgallery@alexandriava.gov to purchase or make inquiries about art, but bear in mind that because the gallery is closed, staff hours will vary. On Saturday, May 30, all unsold artwork will be priced at $100. Across town, the Del Ray Artisans Gallery is closed to the public until further notice.

NOTE: At this time, the DRA 2020 Spring Art Market has been rescheduled to Saturday, June 27.The “War of the Roses” show, celebrating 100 years of the 19th Amendment, is rescheduled for November 2020 and the “Art of Nature” show planned for this May will now take place in May 2021.

Del Ray Artisans, 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, will be open Monday through Friday for administrative duties, online contact information, and phone sales, or email contact. To learn plans for the rest of the year, go to the website. Del Ray Artisans gallery is always free and accessible.

As we all adjust to an evolving global crisis and to what, at least for now, is the new normal, remember that it is always better to err on the side of caution. Many of the great art institutions of the world have opened their virtual doors to allow us to peruse vacated exhibit halls free of charge.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the National Gallery of Art all offer virtual tours of their collections. The National Gallery’s Degas at the Opéra is a vicarious visit to 19th Century Paris. On Exhibit was able to tour the blockbuster show before the National Gallery closed until May 31. It’s a tour de force and a must see. You can explore Degas at the Opera on exhibit at the National Gallery from home with the virtual exhibit  

You can also watch the curator’s brief introduction here. To quote Ernest Hemingway, “Paris is a moveable feast.” So is art. And Degas at the Opéra is on exhibit until July 5th.