The world’s best online art galleries right now

It is scientifically proven that art is good for health, whether you’re the creator or the observer. So lean out of the news feeds, says Lucy White, to enjoy a bounty of artworks at digitised destination museums


1 Getty Museum

If there were a prize for Best Social Media Campaign in the Arts During Covid-19, LA’s Getty Museum would surely win gold for its #gettymuseumchallenge, which invites aesthetes to replicate famous artworks on Instagram and Twitter. Some are still life but arguably the most inventive/entertaining are the portraits, such as the myriad Girls with a Pearl Earring, Rousseau's exotic The Dream and a domestically beautiful reenactment of Toulouse-Lautrec’s Le Lit (The Bed), below. As for the Getty Museum’s own collection, there’s a video of the exhibition Michaelangelo: Mind of the Master on its blog - another excellent online resource - which was shot literally hours before the lockdown. 

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2 Rijksmuseum

Visiting an A-list museum or gallery is a double-edged sword. While it’s clearly brilliant that so many people are actively interested in the arts, it also means the best-known works are routinely obscured by smartphone-toting rubberneckers, many of whom are only there to tick a sightseeing box and don’t actually know their Arp from their El Greco.

Hence visiting Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum virtually means you can enjoy, essentially, a private viewing of the likes of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and Hokusai’s Clear Weather with a Southerly Wind at your own pace. The museum was way ahead of the virtual gallery curve, which means there are many ways in which to explore its many gems, including by following its #Rijksmuseumfromhome YouTube series.

3 National Gallery of Ireland

Our very own National Gallery has been offering online gallery tours for a good while but if you’ve not yet pounded the hallowed floors through the medium of digitisation, now’s the time. You can gad about the Dargan Wing, and raise a mead to Maclise’s theatrical The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife as you move between the Grand Gallery and Shaw Room, but for a more in-depth “visit”, take virtual tours  by room to learn about individual paintings, including Count Dunin-Markievicz’s genteel The Artist's Wife, Constance, Comtesse de Markievicz (1868-1927), Irish Painter and Revolutionary (Shaw Room) which depicts her as a society belle, before she became radicalised, and Canaletto’s Saint Mark’s Square, Venice of 1885 (Room 45), to remind us what The Floating City looked like with tourists, albeit Victorian-era ones.

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National Gallery of Ireland virtual tour

4 The Whitney, NYC

On February 17, New York City’s Whitney museum launched the exhibition Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945. But, sadly, due to the lockdown, its doors were closed less than a month later, due to public health measures. Fortunately, you can still get the skinny on its featured works by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and more, including American artists who became influenced by Mexico’s interest in native art and social activism. Moreover, the museum has an excellent social media feed during the lockdown, via the hashtag #WhitneyFromHome, as well as an online collection of more than 25,000 American artworks from the 20th century onwards. 

Installation view of Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925-1945 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, February 17-May 17, 2020). From left to right: Alfredo Ramos Martínez, The Malinche (Young Girl of Yalala, Oaxaca), c. 1940; Excerpt from Tehuantepec, Mexico, 1940s; Frida Kahlo, Me and My Parrots, 1941; Alfredo Ramos Martínez, Calla Lily Vendor, 1929; Frida Kahlo, Two Women (Salvadora and Herminia), 1928. Photograph by Ron Amstutz

5 Belvedere Palace

In “normal” life, Vienna’s Belvedere is a place so opulent - and set on such majestic grounds - that you really want to see it to believe it (it ain’t called a palace for nothing: it was once the summer home of Austrian general Prince Eugene of Savoy before Empress Maria Theresa transformed the Upper Belvedere into an exhibition space, making it one of the world’s first ever public museums). But until then, make do with its substantial online collection and augmented reality option via the Artivive app. There are also videos spotlighting individual artworks at 3pm every day - but unless you’re fluent in German, it’ll be gobbledegook.

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6 Musée des Arts Décoratifs

In response to the C-19 crisis, France’s Ministry of Culture launched #culturecheznous, a campaign promoting the digital collections of arts institutions, from galleries to libraries to concert halls. In Paris, have the exquisite Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) all to yourself in a virtual tour - click the three, top-right horizontal lines for a dropdown menu of rooms and galleries in which to wander. My favourite in real life and online? A reconstruction of Jeanne Lanvin’s private apartment that was created by the designer Armand-Albert Rateau in the 1920s, and whose furniture and delicious objets are here denoted by circles on which to click and read all about it. 

Boudoir La Lanvin virtual tour, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Header image: by Instagram @gr18saz, Portrait of a Lady, Gustav Klimt, Galleria d'arte moderna Ricci Oddi, Placenza.

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