• Artists around the world are adapting to shutdowns by swapping physical performance spaces for virtual ones.
  • Social distancing comes at a great price for both artists and audiences.
  • Artists are finding creative ways to keep people connected during a pandemic that keeps us apart.

A robotic arm playing a cello was one of many highlights at Olafur Eliasson's Symbiotic Seeing exhibition in Zurich, Switzerland, before it closed prematurely due to COVID-19 restrictions.

You can now watch a video of the exhibition, as well as a clip of the robot cellist in action playing eerie music by award-winning Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir.

With audiences isolating at home, venues shuttered, events cancelled – including Glastonbury and Edinburgh’s August festivals – and freelancers’ paychecks melting away, the arts industry, which operates almost exclusively from public spaces, is scrambling to reinvent itself online.

Many artists have responded to this challenge with the kind of ingenuity you'd expect from highly creative minds.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

The arts world, from your couch

American children's book illustrator and artist Carson Ellis started a quarantine art club on Instagram with daily assignments for people stuck at home.

Musicians from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra embraced technology to record a virtual rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy from their homes.

“We’re adjusting to a new reality and we’ll have to find solutions in order to support each other,” the musicians said in their video, which had over 2 million views in less than two weeks.

“Creative forces help us, let’s think outside of the box and use innovation to keep our connection and make it work, together. Because if we do it together, we’ll succeed.”

Other musicians and singers have live-streamed concerts from home, with online audiences quick to show their appreciation with a deluge of likes, shares and comments.

US entertainment site Billboard compiled a list of artists and bands who are live-streaming shows “to share some musical joy during these trying times.”

Other tools to get your culture fix without leaving home have been around since before the lockdowns. For example, many museums will allow you to visit their collections virtually.

The arts help people to cope in dark times – even during a pandemic that prevents us experiencing art and culture alongside others in the same physical spaces.

Eliasson recently shared an illustration he dedicated to Italian friends and family and the wider community. The picture encourages us to use our time in isolation to learn to be more caring and connected to each other and the world.

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A message of hope from artist Olafur Eliasson.
Image: designboom