24 March 2020
With pubs, clubs and restaurants closing their doors, it was only a matter of time before the world’s cultural institutions followed suit. London’s Wellcome Collection was one of the first in the capital to announce its temporary closure two weeks ago, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts are among those who have since done the same.
But this needn’t put a stop to your cultural pursuits. While physical visits are off the table, a number of museums, galleries and art websites are offering virtual tours of the world’s greatest collections, which you can explore from the comfort of your very own home. Read on for our pick of the best.
National Gallery, London
The National Gallery has been offering virtual tours of its fabled halls since 2011, with 18 gallery rooms and more than 300 paintings available to view. Discover the museum’s collection of Renaissance masterpieces from Northern Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, with works by Titian, Veronese and Holbein. The tour is embedded with information links — simply click on your favourite painting and you’ll be taken to a page detailing key facts and an in-depth analysis of the work.
Fondazione Prada, Milan
One of the worst affected areas, northern Italy has been in lockdown since the 9th March, but Milan’s Fondazione Prada has made the most of a bad situation by offering a chance to see its three postponed exhibitions online ahead of time. Cyber-visitors can enjoy a new flexible platform that includes interviews, videos and images, as well as a range of cinematic programmes and a curated streaming service. A podcast and video project are also believed to be in the pipeline.
The British Museum, London
Get lost in The British Museum’s interactive timeline of the world, featuring some of the most fascinating objects in human history. Created in partnership with Google Cultural Institute, the virtual experience brings the museum’s diverse collection online, spanning prehistory to the present day and featuring audio insights from the British Museum’s curators.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
With an eclectic collection of objects and exhibitions ranging from Margaret Thatcher’s handbags to the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, one could easily spend an entire lifetime at the V&A museum. Sadly, that won’t be happening anytime soon; on a positive note, the museum’s online database is open to browse through 1,236,380 objects and 830,196 images (as of April 2020). If you don’t know where to start, the museum’s curators have helpfully organised 5000 years of human creativity through periods and styles, materials, exhibitions and artists so whether it’s Bowie or Dior that piques your interest, you won’t be disappointed by the wealth of information at your fingertips.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
You can browse 129 works from MoMA’s collection on Google Arts & Culture, which offers the chance to view them via Street View or as a single image, each complete with information on the piece’s background, provenance and style. Look out for works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Keith Haring. If you’re feeling inspired, the museum is offering a series of free online courses on subjects such as photography, modern art and museum teaching strategies for the classroom.
The Louvre Museum, Paris
If, like us, you had no idea the Louvre Museum harboured the remains of a medieval moat in its cellars, don’t miss the gallery’s trio of virtual tours. Originally created as a fortress for the French king Philippe Auguste, the Louvre is home to some impressive stonework, and you are welcome to peruse the perimeters of the original moat, along with the piers that once supported the building’s drawbridge, on the museum’s website. If art’s more your thing, there are tours of the gallery’s Egyptian Antiquities collection and its striking Galerie d’Apollon.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Home to some of Italy’s most important priceless artworks, many of which were donated by the ancient ruling house of Medici, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence has an online archive detailing more than 300,000 works of art. Featuring paintings located not just in the museum itself, but in the likes of the Academia Gallery Museum, the Museum of San Marco and the Medici Villas, the archive includes favourites by Canaletto and Botticelli, among others. A separate HyperVisions page gives thought-provoking insight into the Uffizi’s masterpieces.
Musee D’Orsay, Paris
A fascinating click-through exhibition explaining the Musee D’Orsay’s transformation from a railway station to one of the world’s most impressive art galleries can be found on Google Arts & Culture, which also provides access to 278 of the museum’s masterpieces. Street View will drop you right in front of Van Gogh’s Self Portrait — no queueing required.
Tate Modern, London
Tate Modern’s annual BMW Tate Live Exhibition was due to take place this week, featuring performances by Faustin Linyekula, Okwui Okpokwasili and Tanya Lukin Linklater. Despite the event being cancelled, one production still took place — Linyekula and his collaborators staged a one-off site-specific performance, filmed in the empty Tanks at Tate Modern. My Body, My Archive combines segments of the dancer’s previous works and centres on his experiences of social and political tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo — an autobiographical story told through the mediums of theatre, dance, film and music.
The Royal Academy of Arts, London
An insomniac, self-taught Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert would roam the streets of Brussels at night, transferring his midnight wanderings onto paper come morning. His gothic paintings were due to be the subject of a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts this spring, but with the gallery closed, the show has been transferred to video. See more than 80 of Spilliaert’s works on paper, from the artist’s hometown to later pieces that capture the tranquillity of Belgium’s forests.
The Belvedere, Vienna
The most visited museum in Vienna, with works by Monet and van Gogh, The Belvedere may be lacking in guests right now, but its team is still bringing the wonders of its impressive art collection to the world through the medium of video. At 3pm each day, the gallery uploads a video to Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook detailing a singular artwork from its permanent collection. You can also browse half of the museum’s collection online.
Trate’s Studio, London
Artist Trate will be hosting his own virtual exhibition of his second series of works, Technicolour Malaise, this April. The collection of bold, figurative paintings will be exhibited in his studio in east London, and available to view as 3D-interactive images via Trate's website. The artist is also planning to host a series of virtual private tours to provide further insight into the artworks.
From 9 April, aliastrate.com
HOFA Gallery, London
A couple of weeks ago, Mayfair’s HOFA Gallery was due to unveil the opening of its new 4,000 sq ft gallery space on Bruton Street, complete with a debut exhibition by artist Zhang Hong Yi. With coronavirus putting a stop to celebrations, the gallery has provided a virtual art experience, featuring a walk-through tour of the new space and a chance to see the artist’s Nova collection. The gallery plans to host several future exhibitions through this platform, including Here and Now, a group exhibition that begins on 6 April, for which a portion of proceeds will be donated to support the NHS.
Sims Reed Gallery, London
Most famous for his cosmic rainbow glassworks, seen in Kew Gardens and at the Victoria & Albert Museum, artist Dale Chihuly is also a dab-hand at painting. Having lost the sight of his left eye in 1976, the artist’s paper works are an integral part of his creation process. See them for yourself via Sims Reed Gallery’s virtual 3D exhibition, for which 29 original prints and 10 works on paper reveal the synergy between Chihuly’s two perferred mediums.
Until 1 May, my.matterport.com
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
With more than 1,000 works on display spanning the 13th century to the late 20th century, Madrid’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza has an extraordinary collection of predominantly European works. Virtually visit the museum’s permanent collection, where you can walk through the terracotta halls to marvel at paintings in more than 50 different rooms. There’s also a separate cyber exhibition of works by Rembrandt, complete with a video tour with curator Norbert E. Middelkoop.