Our Favourite Virtual Museums, Galleries & Exhibitions To Visit
Although all temporarily closed, the following museums and galleries are providing unique online experiences that will leave you feeling enlightened during lockdown
Let's face it. There's only so much TV watching and baking you can do at home. If you're yearning for some cultural enlightenment, or simply want to stay inspired, an online visit to these museums and galleries might just do the trick.
During this lockdown period, all cultural establishments such as museums and art galleries have been closed until further notice, however the following picks have some of the best virtual experiences in the world, with some exhibitions and collections specifically curated for the full online experience.
THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT
The search engine has cleverly partnered with over 1200 cultural institutions from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art, and provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. There’s an A-Z of all the museums you can explore virtually including digital friendly museums like the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
AUCKLAND WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM
There are several collections to explore here, and its recently launched Auckland Museum at Home — a free online hub filled with stories, activities, videos and puzzles — is perfect for families to enjoy. Auckland Museum chief executive David Gaimster says the museum is an anchor point for all Aucklanders.
“We want to maintain our connection with the city and the communities we serve while our galleries, exhibitions and public programmes aren’t able to operate.”
Stories contributed to Online Cenotaph provide an account of New Zealand’s history and involvement in WWI, WWII and later conflicts.
To contribute to ANZAC Day the public are invited to visit the online Cenotaph and lay a digital poppy in remembrance of a loved one, with more details to be announced around further participation in this day of remembrance to come.
There is also a virtual walk through the galleries of Auckland Museum from home available, using Google Street View, for visitors who are missing seeing inside the galleries.
AUCKLAND ART GALLERY TOI O TAMAKI
The Auckland Art Gallery’s website is a treasure trove of information. Its online collections are easily navigated and you can scroll through some fascinating archival pieces, view video interviews with artists including last year’s New Zealand entry into Venice Biennale, Dane Mitchell and artist Tanu Gago discussing representation of Pacific bodies in art and much more. You can also download issues of the gallery’s research library journal Reading Room, publishing essays of up to 10,000 words, artists' projects and shorter articles for its archive section.
WATCH: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki's Pacific Bodies with Tanu Gago
THE NEW ZEALAND FASHION MUSEUM
Established in 2010, NZFM is the world's first online fashion museum and New Zealand's first virtual museum. Described in the New York Times as “a very modern undertaking: an online enterprise that organizes exhibitions around the country but has no physical location of its own” you’ll find a breadth of fascinating stories, profiles and collections lovingly documented and archived by the museum.
It’s latest exhibition Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now (curated by yours truly alongside Fashion Museum founder and director Doris de Pont) is mid-way through its season at Canterbury Museum, with the exhibition’s contributors and collections profiled online.
Explore past exhibition’s like On The Edge, Over Top which takes a closer look at how New Zealander’s dressed in the 80s in relation to the wider global context. Looking Terrific: The Story of El Jay, is another exhibition worth exploring online, focusing on the story of Gus Fisher, who in 1953 became a licensee for Christian Dior, giving him the exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Christian Dior originals and Christian Dior prêt a porter in the New Zealand market.
Its popular walking tours with founder Doris de Pont have now been moved online with virtual walking tours delivering 150 years of fashion history in Auckland.
WATCH: Looking Terrific: The Story of El Jay with the New Zealand Fashion Museum
THE SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
There’s a wealth of online resources available at one of the most iconic art museums in the world, housing the most significant architectural icons of the 20th century.
While it’s not quite the same as gazing up at the Frank Lloyd Wright behemoth in person, its organised virtual collections are a great way to spend a few hours online.
Scroll through the collections online from the likes of Piet Mondrian to the controversial Jeff Koons, and explore over 1,700 artworks by more than 625 artists, all searchable on its database.
The Collection Online is continually expanded to include a larger representation of the museum’s core holdings as well as recent acquisitions, and you can go in-depth with daily blogs, audio playlist and captivating video content that take you behind the scenes at the museum and on particular artists.
WATCH: Guggenheim teaching artist Jeff Hopkins
For the month of April, don't miss Guggenheim teaching artist Jeff Hopkins' fun stories about the museum’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Each segment will feature Jeff sketching stories followed by a prompt to create drawings of your own at home.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA (NGV)
The NGV is a shining beacon of culture, art and fashion in Melbourne, and while there are several areas to explore on its website, the guided 3D tour of its latest exhibition Collecting Comme, is a brilliant way to spend a few hours as if you were right there in the gallery.
You can view the exhibition space from all angles, zoom in and download on exhibition labels and see a vast collection of special pieces that celebrate the radical concepts and design methods of one of the world's most revered fashion designers, Rei Kawakubo and her brand Comme des Garcons. Other top virtual tours to explore here include Keith Haring / Jean Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines and KAWS: Comapnsihip In The Age Of Loneliness.
THE POWERHOUSE MUSEUM (MAAS)
The Powerhouse is the major arm of the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney, the others being the Sydney Observatory and Discovery Centre.
Demonstrating how technology, engineering, science and design impact Australia and the world, its latest fashion exhibtion Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson: Step Back Into Paradise, explores the colourful aesthetics and archives of two important Australian designers Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, through compelling stories and archival photographs and designs.
THE VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM (V&A)
The V&A in London is a leader in the world of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity.
It holds many of the UK's national collections and houses some of the greatest resources for the study of architecture, furniture, fashion, textiles, photography, sculpture, painting, jewellery, glass, ceramics, book arts, Asian art and design, theatre and performance.
Its online collections are worth exploring including doyenne of swinging 60s fashion Mary Quant and a closer look at its extensive collection of theatre and performance pieces, including over 3,500 stage costumes and accessories dating from the mid-18th century to today.
If you’re missing some of the finest museums and galleries on the West Coast of the USA, The Getty, one of L.A’s greatest creative hubs is open online with its collection of art books, online exhibitions, podcasts, and videos to help you keep your artistic spirits up.
WATCH: Getty Museum curator talks: Paul Martineau
The virtual tour explores everything from Neolithic clay figures to Bauhaus design.
Use the Google Arts and Culture’s museum view tool to look inside gallery spaces too, and watch videos of curator talks.
THE NATIONAL GALLERY
Take the Google Street View Virtual Tour of one of the UK’s beloved treasures, featuring Renaissance masterpieces from Northern Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, including works by Titian, Veronese and Holbein.
WATCH: A tour of some of the paintings painted by women in the National Gallery collection
Teaming up with VR specialists Oculus, the immersive experience invites you to step into the gallery and enjoying hundreds of paintings in virtual reality with a VR headset, or browse 360 tours on your desktop or mobile.
THE VATICAN MUSEUMS
Head to Rome and visit the Vatican Museums extensive collection of classical sculptures and religious artworks curated by the Popes. Even more breath-taking is its virtual tour of the museum grounds and Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.
WATCH: 360 Virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel