This is how art museums around the world are responding to coronavirus.
One by one, in response to concerns about the spreading coronavirus, art museums’ doors shuttered, cutting off our access to inspiring galleries of paintings, exhibits about science and discovery, and deep dives into the world’s cultures. What’s an art museum junkie to do now?
Fortunately, many of these museums have amped up their social media presence with new programming that’s entirely virtual. From Instagram videos that go behind the scenes of a new exhibit in Buddhist art to stepping into Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, here are some options.
INSIDER TIPNo passport, subway fare, parking money, or admission fee required. Just click on your device. It’s the next best thing to being there, but without the crowds.
Top Picks for You
Corning Museum of Glass
WHERE: Corning, New York
This virtual tour of the Contemporary Art & Design galleries at the Corning Museum of Glass, via Google Arts + Culture, makes you feel like you’re actually at this Upstate New York institution, which is home to the world’s most comprehensive glass collection. The collection numbers around 50,000 pieces. You may not feel sunshine streaming through the hallway’s skylights, but the experience is pretty darn close. Curious about glassmaking history? Zoom in on “the origin of glassmaking” exhibits.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
WHERE: New York City
While this storied art museum’s collection of works by Degas, Picasso, and Gauguin (just to name a few artists) is impressive, so is its exterior design. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the spiraling, white rotunda, completed in 1959 six months after his death, and located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Step into the spiral via this virtual 360-degree tour.
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Last month, The Broad uploaded this sound video to Instagram of what has clearly been its most popular show in recent years: “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” and the accompanying “Infinity Mirrored Room,” both by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. What has been the only complaint from viewers to her shows worldwide are the timed entries (yes, Kusama is that much in demand). Well, guess what? By streaming this 13:32 video, you can repeat, repeat, repeat—or linger as long as you wish.
Yale Center for British Art
WHERE: New Haven, Connecticut
Home to the largest collection of British art outside of the U.K., the Yale Center for British Art app takes you through its doors and into its collection, which also doubles as an architectural tour (Louis I. Kahn designed the public-art museum). Somewhere around 100,000 of the museum’s objects are also featured on the museum’s website for a deeper dive into what you see in the app.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
WHERE: Santa Barbara, California
Not only are museums closed—so are their events. If you gush over art lectures, then this is doubly sad. While you’re cleaning your kitchen or jamming on a jigsaw puzzle, watch or listen to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Curator’s Choice Lecture Series (between 60 and 90 minutes each), in which curators from museums across the U.S. spoke at the California institution.
Museum of Islamic Art
WHERE: Doha, Qatar
Designed by late Chinese architect I.M. Pei, and open since 2008 along the Corniche promenade in Doha, the 48,000-square-foot Museum of Islamic Art may be temporarily closed, but this 360° tour is always open. Exhibits and artifacts—including wood, jewelry, metal work, ceramics, glass and textiles—date back 1,400 years.
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Calm the mind while still taking in a brand-new exhibit (“Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightenment”) by watching this 36-second YouTube video that the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco put together, to the tune of soulful music with a definite beat. The exhibit is scheduled to close May 10, but exposure to its art won’t suffer thanks to this virtual tour.
WHERE: Florence, Italy
Remember the first time you stood in line forever to view a famous work of art—only to be limited to a few seconds to take in its beauty? Recently posted on The Uffizi’s Instagram page is this video—paired with classical music—that zooms in on Botticelli’s “Primavera,” one of the most revered pieces in the museum’s collection. Within the caption is an explanation of the meaning behind the elements of the painting.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
WHERE: New York City
Since there are quite a few ways to experience The Met without leaving your home, the museum put together a tip sheet on the different ways to do so (view it here, in this saved Instagram story). Some of those ideas are visiting the moving-images archives, these Met Stories (a new year-long video series launched in conjunction with The Met’s 150th anniversary), audio guides, and a virtual tour of the museum itself.
The Art Institute of Chicago
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Hosted by two of the Art Institute of Chicago’s curators, this two-minute Instagram video walks you through “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance,” an exhibit of 57 El Greco paintings that opened on March 7 and continues through June 21. Born in Crete, El Greco is considered one of the most prominent painters, sculptors, and architects during the Spanish Renaissance period.
The British Museum
WHERE: London, England
One of the world’s longest-standing museums—the British Museum dates back to 1759 and now houses nearly 8 million works, including art—has unleashed this virtual map of some of the most important pieces in its collection. Items are organized by date and also by global region, designed to give you a starting point but also pique your curiosity elsewhere.
WHERE: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
On your bucket list of “art to see before your die” should be, many art enthusiasts argue, “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt, within the Rijksmuseum’s Gallery of Honour. Fortunately, since we cannot currently visit, there’s this virtual tour of the painting on the museum’s website. Click on the painting and several micro topics concerning the work, such as composition and its history, which you can learn more about through short audio tutorials.
WHERE: Paris, France
Tucked into a former Beaux-Arts style train station (Gare d’Orsay), Musée d’Orsay houses works by French Impressionist painters like Monet and Cézanne. “Walk” through the collection, beginning with the atrium’s soaring, barrel-vaulted ceiling before viewing works like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” (1889) and “Luncheon on the Grass” by Édouard Manet (1863).
INSIDER TIPClick on “View in Street View” to make it feel like you’re actually roaming through the galleries.
Van Gogh Museum
WHERE: Amsterdam, Netherlands
One of Van Gogh’s most recognized works is his “Sunflowers” (1889) painting, on exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum. Its curatorial staff posted this video on Instagram recently that revealed five things you may not know about the painting, including that two of his fingerprints are found within his characteristically thick paint.
National Gallery of Art
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
Each day a new gallery tour of the National Gallery of Art is posted in the museum’s Instagram stories. Recently, the tour was led by chief curator Franklin Kelly as he discusses a recent acquisition by artist Edwin Landseer, a favorite artist of Queen Victoria’s. Normally, art fans could go view it in person, but this is the next best option.
Pérez Art Museum Miami
WHERE: Miami, Florida
Led by its teaching artist Maria Theresa, Pérez Art Museum Miami published this video tour to its Instagram page in honor of Women’s History Month in March, highlighting three different contemporary works currently on view at the museum by women artists. The tour also highlights why they were chosen, with additional commentary from Theresa about why we need to view these paintings now. For example, Deborah Jack’s work illustrates “the movement of the water and the shifting plains” as a metaphor for “a time when the world’s borders are being closed.”
WHERE: Vatican City, Italy
The Vatican’s museum has uploaded so many virtual tours to its website you may be able to fill an entire afternoon. A major spot for viewing Renaissance art, including Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s “Stanze di Raffaello,” in 2017 this was named the fourth-most visited art museum in the world. The virtual tours take you to the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s rooms, the new wing, and more.
WHERE: Paris, France
On the Louvre’s website are these four virtual tours, from Egyptian antiquities during the Pharaonic period to the Galerie d’Apollon, which was rebuilt after a 1661 fire and recently restored again. “Mona Lisa” and the “Venus de Milo” are not forgotten in all of this! Uploaded to YouTube is this 20-minute tour of the museum, capturing the highlights.
WHERE: Catalonia, Spain
Home to the largest number of works by Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, and also completely dedicated to his life as an artist, the Dalí Theatre-Museum offers this high-quality virtual tour from the home page of its website. Created in 2019, it takes you to areas that include the red-walled Treasure Room and the lavender-hued space where “Palace of the Wind” (ceiling panels created by Dali in 1974) resides.
Portland Art Museum
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
Excited to unveil the first collection of images of Mount St. Helens that have ever been undertaken, Portland Art Museum recently uploaded a five-minute tour of the show to its Instagram page. Paired with narration by Dawson Carr, Ph.D., the Janet and Richard Curator of Northwest Art, consider this a mini-lecture on Pacific Northwest art.