Our much-loved museums and art galleries may be closing their doors due to the current outbreak, but don’t despair. Tech-savvy curators are getting creative with how the public can access their collections, and many are catering to an online audience with insanely good virtual tours.
Top-tier institutions around the world have vast online archives, meaning you can take a digital stroll through art history wearing just your pants (or even less if you really want). From ogling Parisian Impressionist works in the Musée d’Orsay to a lesson in ancient Greece from Athens’ Benaki Museum to a voyeuristic archive of ex-lovers’ relics at the Museum of Broken Relationships, there are some fascinating exhibitions at your fingertips – all of which are free.
So pop the kettle on, settle into the sofa and gear up for some seriously enlightening self-isolation with these museums you can explore from home.
British Museum, London
The British Museum is the OG national museum. When it opened in 1759 it was the first of its kind to open to the public in the whole world, and they’re still showing us how it’s done today. The graphics on this tour are crazy; think an intergalactic guitar fretboard. Tap through a musical guide to Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe – and play a little tune along the way.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thousands visit the Gugg every day just to explore its epic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, and thanks to this Google Street View tour you can still wander its halls from your couch. Peruse the museum’s most significant offerings of postmodern, conceptual and installation art, then head to the homepage for a bumper database of its entire collection.
Over in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum is an oasis of classical Dutch art, Asian artefacts and 17th-century silver and porcelain. The Street View-style tour is fine, but better to stick to the brilliant online exhibitions, like the interactive guide to the master of throwing shade, Rembrandt. You can even get up close and personal with ‘The Night Watch’.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Fancy a trip to Paris? Oui oui! This grand museum holds the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works in the world, and you can click your way through the very best among them thanks to interactive galleries featuring Van Gogh, Cézanne, Degas and more.
The Broad, Los Angeles
Forty-five seconds. That’s how long you normally have to bathe in the twinkling, reflective abyss of Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinite Mirrored Room’ at the Broad. But now you can spend as much time with its signature piece as you’d like – virtually, at least. As part of its Broad from Home initiative, you can watch a video of Kusama’s artwork set to a spacey soundtrack.
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
You can scroll through more than 300,000 works in the digital archives of the Uffizi, Florence’s treasure chest of Renaissance art. Botticelli, Titian and Canaletto – all the big boys are here.
Click on the HyperVisions tab for thoughtfully curated tours around themes such as angels, epiphany and ‘intercultural vision’.
Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb and Los Angeles
Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia
This could be a touchy subject for quarantining couples, but the Museum of Broken Relationships takes a nostalgic look at old flames – and it’s really quite beautiful. Each item on display represents the donor’s ex, and the stories behind them range from uplifting to heartbreaking. Who knew an old toaster could be so poignant?
Museu de Arte de São Paulo
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo has a very particular way of displaying artwork in their galleries: paintings are hung on crystal easels that make them look like they’re floating mid-air. Check it out on their virtual gallery, which also features online exhibits of art from Brazil and beyond.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Like most museums around the world, the National Gallery of Victoria has temporarily closed its doors. But those who missed out on its big-hitting ‘Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines’ show (plus other curious art fans around the world) are in luck: the exhibition is now available as a free virtual tour led by the curator.
Picasso Museum, Barcelona
As well as a vast online catalogue of Pablo’s best bits, this temple to all things Picasso offers a 360-degree tour of some of the best-preserved Medieval architecture in Barcelona. When you’re done snooping around the building, check out their Twitter hashtag #MuseuPicassoVirtual to break up your newsfeed with daily doses of art.