Here’s how you can visit an art museum while quarantined
A view of the 'Raphael and His Circle' virtual tour provided by the National Gallery of Art. (Photo via NGA's website)
Now that I’m confined to my own four walls, I’m realizing there are lot of things I’ve taken for granted. I miss hanging out with friends, smiling at passersby and hugging my grandma. But when it’s a nice, sunny day, what I miss most is wandering around Washington, D.C., and popping into as many free museums as I want.
To me, there is no other tranquil beauty that can compare to a museum — a holy place. Like the rest of the world, galleries and museums have been put on pause due to COVID-19. Thankfully, there are online resources available that let us visit virtually. To start, Google Arts & Culture is a great (and free!) resource where you can explore different exhibits categorized by art movement, time period, historical figures and more.
Through the magic of the World Wide Web, you can see the offerings of hundreds of museums around the world. It’s not exactly like spending an afternoon walking down hallways of art, but at a time like this, it’s close enough. Here are a few you can visit, free of charge. Take a virtual field trip across the globe!
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City
On the Guggenheim website, you can find “Guggenheim From Home,” which offers countless ways to engage with art in the museum. Renowned for its unique architectural structure, the museum offers an audio tour that you can listen to while scrolling through pictures of the iconic building.
You can also look through seminal artworks from the Guggenheim collections. Each comes with a short but informative description. In some ways, I’ve learned more about the museum online than I would if I had gone in person — and I don’t have to squint to see all the little plaque descriptions.
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National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
The National Gallery is my go-to museum in D.C. and my happy place. Its online resources don’t fail to impress either. On its website, you can virtually explore various exhibits and interact with them. Scrolling through the hallways, there are markers to click on to read about each artwork. The National Gallery recently opened an exhibit on one of my favorite painters, Edgar Degas, called “Degas at the Opera,” and it’s definitely one of the most worthwhile virtual tours.
There’s also plenty of content available on the website. The National Gallery offers downloadable lessons on art and art history for all ages. There are prompts and questions that go along with artwork to spark conversation and creative thinking. The entire site is a great resource if you’re looking to expand your mind and explore the art world.
Musée d’Orsay in Paris
Even though many of us in the States won’t be visiting Paris anytime soon, we can still explore from afar. Musée d’Orsay is nestled in a stunning work of architecture: a train station renovated into a museum. On Google Arts & Culture, there’s an online exhibit that documents the museum’s wacky history with pictures. There’s plenty to explore in a building that’s a work of art with a fascinating backstory. You can also click through some of the famous works in the collections.
The National Gallery in London
Explore this museum through your computer or phone — or even with a VR headset. The National Gallery has set up virtual tours, but my favorite part of the resources is the “Stories” section. If you aren’t a museum person and want more hands-on activities, this is a great option. You can learn how to draw Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” or meditate while looking at J.M.W Turner’s painting of the Great Western Railway. Get engaged with these resources.
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam for plenty of reasons. Not only does it have incredible architecture, but there’s an entire museum devoted to one of my favorite artists. Google Arts & Culture allows you to step foot in the museum and includes fascinating exhibits on their namesake artist. I especially enjoyed “Vincent van Gogh’s love life,” which pairs interesting commentary with some of his paintings.
São Paulo Museum of Art in São Paulo
Brazil’s first modern art museum, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, has a huge historical collection as well as an impressive name. It offers six different online exhibits. I highly recommend taking a look at “Picture Gallery in Transformation.” Not only can you read about the exhibit, you can also take the little yellow Google man and drop him into the museum to explore the space.
There are tons more museums available on Google Arts & Culture from all across the world. Don’t let quarantine stop your travel bug. Go get cultured!