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.”



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