I would like to tell you a story about how good are artworks for your morale. It happened during the Second World War.
The bombing by the Germans during the Second World War in the UK caused the closing of the doors of all museums. The director of the National Gallery of London, Kenneth Clark, while reading the newspaper, found out an article addressed to him. It was a letter from a reader who asked him if he could reopen the doors of the National Gallery.
Obviously, it would be very dangerous for the artworks but the director was impressed by this request. “It is precisely because of the war that we need to see beautiful things,” thought the director.
How to do? The National Gallery, like other museums, emptied their exhibition halls. Then all the artworks were put in an abandoned mine in Wales. This precaution proved to be effective because nine bombs fell on the National Gallery building since 1940. Because of that danger, the museum obviously could not reopen.
But Londoners needed consolation and Kenneth Clark made an unprecedented decision: he asked for a painting to arrive secretly every month. This operation was carried out following the highest security criteria, so that the “painting of the month” did not risk anything. Two guards had to watch over the artwork and at the slightest warning signal they were ready to evacuate it. Every night, the artwork was placed in an underground secured room.
Much to Clark’s amazement, the public showed up at the monthly appointment and this initiative lasted until the end of the war. Paintings by Titian, Velázquez, Renoir, and many more, went back and forth to warm up the soul of Londoners. As the author of the letter said, “it’s risky, but worth!”
I believe this story is very much linked to Andrew’s post The Power of Art: How Beauty Can Save the World.