Eleven impressive virtual exhibitions that you can enjoy without leaving home
In January 2020, no one could foresee that it was going to be a paradigmatic year for the art world. For the first time, museum exhibitions, biennials, art competitions and galleries saw their usual schedule interrupted by the COVID pandemic. A year later there is no doubt, the pandemic has made the art circuit changes forever and one of the main consequences that museums are going to suffer now that they reopen their doors is the reduction in capacity.
Those images that showed us thousands of visitors crowded in the vicinity of mythical paintings such as La Gioconda or The Garden of Delights of Bosco, will not be repeated. The macro-exhibitions that concentrated thousands of tourists are now a thing of the past. The challenge is daunting, but the pandemic has only accelerated a system that most managers acknowledge was exhausted. The goal is clear to leave behind an unsustainable model and reinvent itself.
The good news is that interest in culture and museums in the pandemic has increased. Most of the institutions have seen how visits to their websites have multiplied. This trend has been coupled with the fact that both curators and educators are increasingly betting on multiple possibilities offered by virtual exhibitions. There are hundreds of institutions that in the context of COVID have offered 3D tours of their galleries, these being available through Google Arts & Culture or on similar platforms that allow the user to walk through the london science museum, Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the national museum in Tokyo or the Frida Kahlo’s blue house.
I have chosen some of the experiences most immersive events that have happened in the last year, some I have even been able to experience them in the first person, and others are about to happen.
A walk through the National Museum of Natural Sciences
You can now visit the National Museum of Natural Sciences without leaving home. You only need a computer, a tablet or a mobile phone to explore its rooms and enjoy its magnificent collections, recreating yourself in the main details. Thanks to new technologies, you can virtually access the MNCN. This has been possible thanks to their collaboration with the participation of the Google Art and Culture platform, in which they have created a specific Natural Sciences section. In addition to visiting the entire space through a virtual visit, you can choose up to six different reports or virtual visits. My recommendation is the geological tour, 4500 million years in a journey through fossils from different geological eras.
Monte Amiata Mercury Mines Museum
Another virtual tour that has caught my attention for being a different proposal is the one offered by the Monte Amiata mercury mines museum, located in the old town of Santa Fiora, in the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini. Google Arts and Culture to offer an authentic visit to the mine and seeks to reflect the history of the mines and the sacrifices made by the miners, as well as to publicize the geology of Mount Amiata.
Ronda de Noche, Rijksmuseum
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam presented the interactive version of his precious painting as part of a long restoration process called Operation Night Watch Before the virtual tour premiered, experts began restoring the painting in a glass chamber installed in the middle of the museum, offering visitors the chance to see the restoration live.
One of the most interesting points that I have found in Nightwatch is that it comes with options for children and adults. Users can also get closer to different aspects of the painting while a soundscape (the whisper of a cape, the hooves of a horse, a haunting melody or a distant bell) sets the mood. The project is an excellent example of how galleries and museums can adapt to new media and how they can engage viewers in a new way of approaching and enjoying art.
Dorothea Lange, Words & Pictures, MOMA
Recognized today as one of America’s foremost photographers, Dorothea Lange is admired for her dazzling portraits of the human condition and keen social conscience. Qualities that are perhaps best exemplified in her iconic image of the Migrant Mother from 1936, which became a symbol of the Great Depression. Few people know that Lange was also in love with the written word. As he once said: “All photographs, not just so-called documentaries, can be strengthened with words“.
Through his virtual exhibition at MoMA, users can read selections of Lange’s writing, watch a series of short videos about his work, listen to interviews with curator Sarah Meister and, of course, take the time to study the detail the photographs of the iconic artist.
Van Eyck: an optical revolution, Ghent Museum of Fine Arts
Perhaps what happened with this exhibition is the best way to explain the drift of museums during 2020, and that is that the art world was devastated when the pandemic forced the closure of an exhibition like the Jan van Eyck at the Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent less than two months after its opening. The exhibition was unique and was the largest exhibition ever of van Eyck’s paintings. In response to the unexpected closure, the museum took a turn and partnered with Belgian virtual reality company Poppr to create a 360-degree tour of the gallery that included audio guides for adults and children. Star paintings featured in the show included Portrait of a Man and panels from the spectacular Ghent Altarpiece, the central part of which depicts Jesus as a lamb sacrificed on an altar. Before the exhibition, the panels had not left St. Bavo’s Cathedral since 1945.
A tour of the German Oceanographic Museum
Also presented with the help of Google, this virtual tour is incredibly engaging and incorporates virtual reality as a tool to publicize the marine world. Located in Stralsund, Germany, the museum is packed with exhibits about the wonders of the deep. In addition to offering exhibitions on demand, it includes some 300,000 fossils, exhibits, photographs and videos online, all thanks to the use of the latest technologies. I recommend the Tropical Aquariums exhibition, in which you can appreciate the diversity of the fauna and flora of the different seas, and the amazing color of these natural spaces.
Artemisia. The National Gallery
The first major exhibition in the United Kingdom showing the work of the great artist Artemisia ran into the limitations that the pandemic imposed on the museum world. However, the National Gallery decided that it would also be available virtually. The curatorial work behind the artemisia exhibition is mind-boggling, the half-hour tour will take us in the footsteps of Artemisia herself from Rome to Venice, and from Florence to London.
This virtual tour offered visitors the possibility of joining the expert, Letizia Treves, in an online tour lasting about 30 minutes, through which to discover the amazing work of Artemisia, witness the violence and drama of her paintings best known and recognize the bold way in which he subverted the male gaze. Although the exhibition was closed in January it can still be visited through Google Arts & Culture.
Writing the Future Basquiat and the Hip Hop generation, Fine Arts Museum, Boston
The graffiti artist-turned-painter, who died of a heroin overdose at age 27, did not develop his artistic vision in a vacuum: he was deeply influenced by a network of close collaborators. “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation,” which opened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in October, is the first show to consider the influence of Basquiat’s wide circle of mainly black and Latino collaborators as fundamental, the which shaped the painter’s artistic vision in New York City in the 1980s.
The museum complemented the traditional exhibit with an online display of multimedia content, including detailed essays, images of works on display, and clips from interviews with the artist. Viewers are encouraged to explore lesser-known works of art by Basquiat’s peers, such as Rammellzee’s “Gothic Futurist” paintings and Lady Pink’s rebellious murals, in search of themes and styles that Basquiat echoed in his own work.
Andy Warhol en the Tate Modern
It’s hard to imagine that the next retrospective I’m going to mention is the first Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate in over 20 years. In addition to his iconic pop images of Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola and Campbell’s soup cans, the show includes works never before seen in the UK. Twenty-five works from her Ladies and Gentlemen series, portraits of Latinx and black drag queens and trans women, are shown for the first time in 30 years. In the virtual visit that TATE proposes, we follow the explanations room by room of Gregor Muir and Fiontán Moran as they talk about Warhol through interesting discursive perspectives such as migration, LGBTQI identity and Warhol’s concerns about death and religion.
Celebrating Raphael Sanzio
Through this visit online We will rediscover the works of the famous Renaissance painter and architect, Raffaello Sanzio, better known as Raphael. To commemorate the 500th anniversary of his death, a virtual museum which houses more than a hundred of his works.
This digital retrospective that took place over the past year, brought together the most notable works of the artist. Navigation allows you to discover the works at your own pace, either through the different countries or by selecting the museums or works that interest you the most. During the visit you can easily and entertainingly find its most famous masterpieces, as well as lesser-known pieces and visiting the best museums in the world, such as the Vatican Museums, the Louvre Museum, the Uffizi Gallery, the Prado, Villa Borghese or the Hermitage Museum. On the web they invite you to find your favorite work by Rafael, from his serene Madonnas to his imposing biblical scenes.
Paula Rego at TATE
Since July 7, Paula Rego has been one of the protagonists of the TATE. Since the 1950s, Rego has played a key role in redefining figurative art. An uncompromising painter of extraordinary imaginative power, she has revolutionized the way women are depicted. This exhibition will tell the story of the artist, highlighting the personal nature of much of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted. It will also reveal the wide range of the artist’s references, from comics to historical painting. I am once again fascinated by the way in which TATE wants to bring art to the little ones. Complementary to the exhibition that will take place have developed different pages interactive where children can get to know the work of Rego.
Cover Image | Erik Smits (Rijksmuseum)