The closures underscored the extent to which major institutions of all kinds are trying to prevent large gatherings of people in the hopes of slowing the spread of the disease. Shortly after the closures were announced, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York announced that he was moving to ban gatherings of more than 500 people in the state, effectively closing all large performances and shutting down Broadway theaters as well, The New York Times reported.
The closures represented a turning point: After days of taking a wait-and-see approach, even as Europe adopted far more stringent restrictions, American presenters and officials decided it was time for a more aggressive strategy.
This went beyond New York: After California moved to limit large gatherings, on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Philharmonic announced that concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall were being canceled, and orchestra concerts in Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago were called off, as were performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
The Metropolitan Museum said it would temporarily close its Fifth Avenue flagship and two other locations. It did not announce a target date to reopen, but said it would undertake a thorough cleaning and announce further steps early next week.
“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers and visitors,” Daniel Weiss, the museum’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
“While we don’t have any confirmed cases connected to the museum, we believe that we must do all that we can to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our community, which at this time calls for us to minimize gatherings while maintaining the cleanest environment possible,” Mr. Weiss said.
Even before they made the announcement to shut down, many arts organizations were scrambling to navigate President Trump’s ban on travel from Europe, which threatened to leave many without some of their most important artists and biggest stars.
The music director of the New York Philharmonic, Jaap van Zweden, is currently in his native Amsterdam, and orchestra officials were girding themselves for the possibility that he could be stranded there. The Metropolitan Opera faced the loss of some of its leading stars. And the Rotterdam Philharmonic noted the ban as it postponed a tour marking the 50th anniversary of its first United States trip.
Governor Cuomo’s limit on large gatherings effectively closed Broadway theaters. Lincoln Center said that its constituent organizations would stop performing as of Thursday evening. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center said that its musicians would play their planned performances without an audience.
Anxiety rippled through the arts world in response to the closures. Adam Krauthamer, the president of New York’s musicians’ union, Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, called on city and state officials to come up with a relief plan for musicians – many of whom work as freelancers for multiple employers and need work to qualify for health and pension benefits.
“As theaters and concert halls go dark, we must ensure that musicians and other arts workers are not left behind,’’ he said in a statement. “We call on all relevant government agencies to work immediately to put together and pass a strong economic relief package that ensures all arts workers have access to health care and unemployment benefits while their workplaces are shuttered.”
The Metropolitan Museum, one of the world’s largest art institutions, made its announcement at a time when it was embarking on celebrations of its 150th anniversary; just this week the museum decided to postpone the opening viewing and reception for its anniversary exhibition, ‘Making The Met, 1870 – 2020,”’ planned for March 23.
Boston’s top art museums followed suit, with the Harvard Art Museums, Institute of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Museum of Fine Arts announcing temporary closures, as did the National Gallery of Art in Washington, High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Smithsonian museums in Washington and New York.
The Frick Collection, the Neue Galerie, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the New Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and the American Museum of Natural History said Thursday that they would close, as did the New York spaces of Pace Gallery, Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian Gallery, and two of David Zwirner Gallery’s three locations in the city.