As Joni Mitchell once said, “You don’t what you got til it’s gone.” Ms Mitchell was talking about replacing nature with parking lots, but she may as well have been talking about the temporary closure of museums and galleries.
But fear not. Just as music fans and theatre buffs are still able to track down their favourite bands, plays and musicals via live streams, so too can you visit museums and galleries the world over with the aid of a screen and an internet connection. Click on the museum names to be whisked off on a virtual visit.
The jewel in the crown of Paris’s art scene, the Louvre offers three virtual tours. There’s one that whisks you through their impressive Egyptian Antiquities gallery, perfect if you’re missing out on Tutankhamun: Treasures Of The Lost Pharaoh, while the other two take virtual visitors through the remains of the gallery’s original moat and the Galerie d’Apollon, with its magnificent ceiling.
There are seven 360˚ tours available through the wonders of the Vatican, each taking in a different gallery, all of which are still mind-blowing even on a computer screen. Visit the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, the Niccoline Chapel, the Pio Clementino and Chiaramonti museums and more.
The National Gallery’s 360˚ tour is almost as much a work of art as the actual works of art at its core. Using a system akin to Google Street View, visitors are guided around 18 rooms using clickable arrows. The artworks are clickable, allowing you to zoom right in on the details and call up background information on the artists and the art’s creation. It’s the truest sense of the word “immersive” and a virtual tour that can consume art fans for hours.
The National Portrait Gallery has two types of tour, one that is essentially a 360˚ viewer of all the rooms and another for its Mirror Mirror exhibition (self-portraits by female artists) that lets you click on each painting to see it enlarged on your screen and also read extended notes on each one.
The Gallery at the world-famous Courtauld Institute of Art has been shut for renovations since 2018. In place of being actually able to visit its masterpieces by van Gogh, Rubens, Manet, Degas and Monet, you can take its wonderfully designed virtual tour through all of the gallery’s rooms.
Over 2,000 institutions around the world banded together with Google for the tech giant’s fantastic online art resource. Journey through the halls of the Natural History Museum (and say hi to Dippy), the British Museum or MOMA or take a stroll through the gardens at Versailles, all from your sofa. Or delve deeper into famous artworks such as The Girl With The Pearl Earring and Van Gogh’s Terrace Of A Café At Night and learn about a day in the life of Frida Kahlo. There’s even an opportunity to see Banksy murals on Google Street View.
The Manhattan gallery has a couple of fascinating virtual tools to explore, most notably its AV guide through recent exhibitions such as Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Recreate American Art and Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist. Click on each artwork in the collection for a fascinating look at the artist and the circumstances surrounding the work’s creation.
The NGA’s expansive online resource really comes into its own in this scenario, with a whole galaxy of teaching tools, video guides, virtual galleries and more to explore, taking current and past exhibitions to art fans the world over. Watch online lecture series, “visit” collections by Degas and Raphael or engage younger fans through the gallery’s inventive iPad app.
The Museum Of Modern Art (MoMA to its friends) comes under Google’s aforementioned Arts & Culture hub but it also has its own invaluable online resource. Ever wanted Steve Martin to talk you through abstract art? What about a 15-minute guide to Lee Lozamo’s eight-foot hammer from John Waters? The BBC and MoMA co-production The Way I See It, offers exactly that (and more) and the entire collection is available to stream from its site. Each episode has a short video and a longer audio clip as the interviewee delves into their favourite work in MoMA’s collections.
The Getty’s Iris blog has collated all of its virtual tours and online resources in one handy post with links. There are free audio tours for current exhibitions, a list of the highlights from its YouTube channel, episodes of the museum’s two podcasts and an online library of 350 art books.
The Frick virtual tour is frickin’ slick. Select the floor, work your way through the map, select a room and be whisked into the map via a 360˚ view. You can then click on each artwork and read more or listen to the audio guide. There are some real wonders of the art world to explore, from Holbein’s famous portrait of Sir Thomas Moore to Vermeer’s Officer And Laughing Girl.