Van Gogh's Sunflowers under coronavirus quarantine in Tokyo

Painting part of 60 masterpieces on tour that have been affected as Japan’s museums temporarily close

It’s lucky they don’t need watering – for Van Gogh’s Sunflowers have become the latest casualty of the coronavirus outbreak. And they’re currently being forced into a period of self-isolation.

The painting was on its way from London’s National Gallery to Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art as part of a travelling show of 60 lauded artworks. It was the first time Van Gogh’s masterpiece had left Europe. However, following the Covid-19 outbreak in Japan, the country’s culture ministry has ordered the two-week closure of all national art museums.

The show – Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London – was due to open on 3 March but will now remain closed until 16 March. In the meantime, some of Europe’s most prized art will remain in the Japanese museum’s quarantine section – experiencing a brief respite from being stared at, day in, day out, for decades on end.

Japan has imposed strict measures in the hope of containing the virus since it was first detected in the country. Prime minister Shinzo Abe announced the closing of all schools until the end of March, a move that affects 13 million students. There have been more than 200 cases of the virus reported in Japan, with latest figures showing four reported deaths. In addition, there have been more than 700 cases and six deaths from the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked at Yokohama. A woman from Osaka who had recovered from the illness is said to be the first recorded person to have been tested positive for a second time.

The closure of the country’s galleries will cause considerable disruption to the Japanese tourist industry, and an extended closure is possibile.

In a statement London’s National Gallery said: “We are consulting closely with our partners … we hope that the exhibition will be able to open on 17 March 2020, or as soon as possible after that.”


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
How Van Gogh's Sunflowers came into bloom

Van Gogh's Sunflowers are among the most famous paintings in the world. As two of the originals are shown in the National Gallery, Frances Spalding looks back at the uproar and anguish they provoked

Frances Spalding

17, Jan, 2014 @10:00 AM

Article image
Just Stop Oil’s Van Gogh soup stunt is the latest streak of radical art protest by women
‘What is worth more: art or life?’ asked protesters Anna Holland and Phoebe Plummer this month in an echo of the suffragette who slashed Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus

Katy Hessel

24, Oct, 2022 @5:00 AM

Article image
Van Gogh and Japan review – the painter as tortured apprentice
There is no doubting Van Gogh’s reverence for the Japanese masters such as Hiroshige, but his attempts to re-create their calm artistry surely added to his personal torment

Jonathan Jones

28, Mar, 2018 @2:31 PM

Article image
After Impressionism review – radical ideas and ecstatic sex from the edge of a new universe
Cézanne outshines Van Gogh, with Picasso his revolutionary pupil, in this absorbing hurtle toward modern art – smashing 500 years of tradition into cubist shards

Jonathan Jones

22, Mar, 2023 @12:01 AM

Article image
With coronavirus, the curse of Artemisia Gentileschi strikes again | Jonathan Jones
Abused, dishonoured and forgotten, the great artist’s terrible luck continues – her National Gallery exhibition is the latest cultural victim of Covid-19

Jonathan Jones

16, Mar, 2020 @5:14 PM

Article image
Van Gogh's gushing letter to art critic goes on show in Amsterdam
In letter artist describes review, one of the first of his paintings, as ‘a work of art in itself’

Daniel Boffey in Brussels

09, May, 2019 @4:47 PM

Article image
Van Gogh Sunflowers to be reunited in National Gallery exhibition

Two of the surviving five versions of the Sunflowers to go on display in London next year

Maev Kennedy

28, Oct, 2013 @6:08 PM

Article image
How Hokusai's Great Wave crashed into Van Gogh's Starry Night
Writer says Dutch painter was influenced by Japanese print he is known to have admired

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

28, Sep, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
Van Gogh's true colours were originally even brighter
Jonathan Jones: Research undertaken by the Van Gogh Museum reveals the master's favourite paints have faded badly since the 1880s

Jonathan Jones

02, May, 2013 @2:37 PM

Article image
Tokyo brothels, one-minute sculptures and a hi-tech Abramović – the week in art
The Japanese capital looks back on Edo, Marina Abramović becomes an apparition, and an Austrian joker flattens a car

Jonathan Jones

15, Feb, 2019 @2:43 PM