Can you remember when you last visited a museum? Even if you didn’t much care for them before the time of the coronavirus, you’re probably beginning to miss them right about now. At least the internet technology that has kept our communication open and our entertainment flowing — and, regrettably for some, kept our work meetings regular — has also made it possible to experience art institutions through our screens. Here on Open Culture we’ve previously featured many such online art spaces, digital gallery experiences, and virtual museum tours, and today we’ve rounded up some of the best for you.
Most everyone who had a trip to France scheduled for this spring or summer will have canceled it. But thanks to these three high-definition, first-person videos, you can still tour the Louvre, Liberty Leading the People, the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, and even I.M. Pei’s rooftop pyramid and all. Perhaps you’d planned to spend part of 2020 traveling Europe more widely, in which case you’d almost certainly have gone to Italy and seen Forence’s Uffizi Gallery as well. Luckily, that most famous collection of Renaissance art has gone digital with a complete “street view” tour as well as an archive of 3D sculpture scans.
Of course, no art-oriented trip to Italy would be well spent only in galleries and museums: it would also have to include St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and other sacred spaces of the Vatican, in whose virtual versions you can now spend as long as you like. And while some tourists in Europe face time or money constraints too tight to allow visits to smaller countries like the Netherlands, internet travel is subject to no such limitations. So go ahead and take a seven-part tour of the Van Gogh Museum in 4K, or have a look at Rembrandt’s The Night Watch down to every last brushstroke.
You won’t find every Dutch masterpiece in the Netherlands. Take Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Early Delights, for instance, currently held by Spain’s Prado Museum, which has also made a virtual tour of the grotesque and spectacular painting available online. As for the work of Spain’s own artists, you can go even deeper into the work of Salvador Dalí with this 360-degree virtual-reality video of his painting Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus.’ Those who’d like to spend some time off the continent and back down on Earth can view an altogether different 360-degree video, this one of Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre in London — and have a look at the treasures of the British Museum while they’re at it.
The ongoing pandemic having put a temporary stop to not just most travel to Europe but most international travel of any kind, hopeful travelers to and within North America have also been forced to change their plans. If this describes you, consider taking a virtual tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio Taliesin, or the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. But while you’re online, why not mount an even more ambitious worldwide art journey: to the Hermitage in Russia, the Ghibli Museum in Japan, and street art (as well as stolen art) from all over? It’s a big world of art out there — something we can’t let ourselves forget before we can see it in person again.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.