One of the hardest things about life in quarantine is the sheer monotony of day-to-day life. It’s hard to feel stimulated in a fixed environment with little variation in sights, sounds, and information. We find ourselves moving through the same rooms, staring at the same objects, stuck in a constant loop of routines.
This week’s travel guide is all about getting the creative juices flowing. Art critic Jerry Saltz once described museums as “wormholes to other worlds,” so what better balm for the restless soul than virtual tours of the world’s finest galleries? “[Museums] are ecstasy machines,” said Saltz. “Follow your eyes to wherever they lead you…and the world should begin to change for you.” Here’s hoping!
Tate Britain (United Kingdom)
The Tate Britain is the oldest gallery in the Tate network of museums (which are named for their founder, Sir Henry Tate); it opened in 1897 and is today one of the largest museums in the United Kingdom. Over the years, the building — once a penitentiary — has had seven major expansions to accommodate its ever-growing collection.
This virtual tour from Google Arts & Culture takes the viewer through 8 different exhibits. These online experiences can be tailored to one’s specific interests; there are exhibits on poetry, music, photography, cooking, fashion, and film. In the mood for something a little light-hearted? “Re.Create with Tate Britain: Comedy” explores 500 years of British art with the help of comedians. Host Monty Buggershop-Hooty (comedian Adam Buxton, wearing a top hat) takes the viewer on a jaunt through the galleries in one video, while in another, comedian Harry Hill has been tasked with writing new captions for some of Britain’s most famous artworks. This experience is perfect for the current climate: a healthy dose of culture paired with some hearty laughs.
Guggenhaim Bilbao (Spain)
Back in 2017, the Guggenheim Bilbao made our list of the “World’s Most Beautiful Contemporary Museums.” While our focus then was on its extraordinary architecture, the work of the renowned Frank Gehry, this virtual tour is an opportunity to feast on the beauty of the museum’s interiors. (Though if you are curious to know more about the iconic structure, one exhibit, “Passages from the Construction of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao,” offers a sampling of the thousands of photos taken by Aitor Oritz to document its construction.)
Our recommendation: “Mrs. Lenin and the Nightingale, a work by Georg Baselitz.” This online experience takes the viewer on a detailed exploration into one painting by Baselitz, who, in the
1960s, began painting motifs upside down in order to re-examine traditional compositional rules and our relationship with a paintings subject.
Vatican Museums (Vatican City)
Located in — where else — Vatican City, the Vatican Museums house works from the immense collection of the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy. Throughout the centuries, these works have accumulated considerably, and according to a The Art Newspaper survey, they drew a total of 6,882,931 visitors in 2019.
While the Vatican Museums will be receiving considerably fewer visits in 2020, their official website offers 360-degree tours of their most popular rooms. Skip the crowds for a virtual dive into the Profane Museum, the Alexandriane Hall, and Raphael’s Rooms. Then marvel at the beautifully ornate ceiling of the famous Sistine Chapel, all at your own pace.
Musee d’Orsay (France)
Musee d’Orsay is a popular Parisian tourist attraction, thanks to the building itself as much as the artwork it holds. (Its iconic clock has long been the preferred photo op for visitors and Instagrammers.) Located on the banks of the Seine in the heart of Pairs, the building was once a railway station built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. “So the building itself could be seen as the first ‘work of art’ in the Musee d’Orsay,” begins this online journey.
This experience is for lovers of history and architecture; its digital exhibit is a crash course into the building’s construction and later conversion. Because the station served electric trains — the first station designed for these new-fangled locomotives — the architects had been able to enclose the platforms with a beautiful glass ceiling that remains preserved to this day. The building was used for a variety of purposes over the years, until it was finally officially inaugurated as a museum on December 1, 1986.
Art Gallery of Ontario (Canada)
The works of American-Canadian architect Frank Gehry can be seen a little closer to home than in Bilbao, Spain; Gehry also designed the Art Gallery of Ontario, located in downtown Toronto. With a physical facility measuring 583,000 square feet, it is one of the largest art museums in North America.
While its doors may be temporarily closed, this online tour offers a look at 166 works in the AGO’s collection. From oil paintings and photographs to paper and wood items, there’s a bit of everything on hand here. Our recommendation: the Canada collection. These 22 items are a look at the works of Canada’s finest artists, from Emily Carr to Tom Thomson.