Virtual Art Museums and Tour

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the world’s most venerable art institutions
have been forced to temporarily shut their doors. Luckily, that doesn’t mean that we’ve lost
access to the countless treasures housed by these great museums. Thanks to the
extensive Google Arts & Culture project, more than 2,500 spaces from around the world are
accessible online, and many offer virtual tours of their holdings. Here are some art
museums with exciting virtual experiences. For more options click on the “Google Arts &
Culture” link in this paragraph.
J Paul Getty Museum – Los Angeles, California
Photograph: Alex Vertikoff/2003 J. Paul Getty Trust
With more than 6,000 years worth of creative treasures, the Getty is one of the best
places for art on the west coast of the US. Go from neolithic clay figures to Van Gogh’s
Irises and Renoir’s La Promenade – just two of many artworks that feature in the virtual
tour. As with several of our selection, Google Arts and Culture offers a “museum view”
tool to look inside gallery spaces, with clickable artworks presenting further information.
The Getty’s sunny sculpture plaza and garden terrace are worth adding to your digital
trip, via another viewing platform, Xplorit.
Museo Frida Kahlo – Mexico City, Mexico
La Casa Azul is where acclaimed artist Frida Kahlo lived and died. It is also home to the
museum honoring her life and artistic legacy. Nearly 70 examples of Kahlo’s personal
effects, artworks and attire are accessible digitally, including the body cast she famously
painted while ill and Self-Portrait Wearing a Velvet Dress.
The Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
Home to one of the largest permanent collections of any museum in the United States, The
Art Institute of Chicago houses 260,000 pieces of art from across the centuries. Nearly 600
of those works are made accessible digitally through the Arts & Culture initiative, including
Mary Cassatt’s The Child’s Bath, Cézanne’s The Basket of Apples and Julia Margaret
Cameron’s portrait of Julia Jackson.
Georgia O’Keefe Museum – Santa Fe, New Mexico
A singularly American artist, Georgia O’Keefe famously lived her later years in the New
Mexico desert, where the museum dedicated to her remains. The organization behind the
institution advocates for the advancement of her legacy and also cares for many of
O’Keefe’s paintings, 30 of which are viewable online, including Above the Clouds 1, Autumn
Trees-The Maple and Two Pink Shells.
Detroit Institute of Arts – Detroit, Michigan
One of the Midwest’s artistic crown jewels, the Detroit Institute of Arts houses an incredible
collection––one of the top six in the United States––under its Beaux-Arts roof. Among its
most notable holdings accessible online are Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait on the Borderline
Between Mexico and the United States, Caravaggio’s Marth and Mary Magdalene, and
Ruysch’s Flowers in a Glass Vase.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, New York
Arguably America’s premier museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a New York icon
with one of the most celebrated collections anywhere in the world. Twenty-six virtual
exhibits and over 200,000 documented works give digital viewers a taste of pretty much any
art from nearly any era, from Pieter Bruegel The Elder’s The Harvesters to Chanel’s iconic
A view from The Met’s famed gallery featuring The Temple of Dendur.
MoMA – New York, New York
Founded in 1929, the Museum of Modern Art was the first museum dedicated to collecting
and presenting art from the modern era. The institution’s holdings showcase some of
contemporary art history’s most famous paintings, from the likes of Van Gogh and Picasso.
Google may only present 129 of those artworks, but they are some of the world’s most
notable, including Henri Rousseau’s The Dream, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night,
Cézanne’s The BatheUffizi Gallery – Florence, Italy
Designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for a member of the powerful Medici family, the Uffizi
Gallery is a standout even among Florence’s many storied institutions. Built over centuries,
its holdings include some of Italy’s most important works from artists like Caravaggio
(Medusa) and Raphael (Madonna of the Goldfinch). You can peruse 156 of them virtually.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Featuring works from the eighth through to the 21st century, The J. Paul Getty
Museum houses its collection in one of Los Angeles’s most striking buildings, with sweeping
views of the city. Though visitors may not be able to appreciate either of those features in
person, Google allows you to view nearly 16,000 pieces from the museum’s extensive
holdings, including Rembrandt’s Rembrandt Laughing, Renoir’s La Promenade and Van
Gough’s Irises.
A virtual look at one of the Getty Museum galleries. Screengrab
National Museum – New Delhi, India
The National Museum has been India’s premier museum since opening its doors in 1949.
Today, it is home to thousands of works of art spanning 5,000 years of history, including
painting, sculpture, jewelry, ancient texts, armor and decorative arts. Over 600 of those
items are documented for viewing online.
Vatican Museums – Rome, Italy
Vatican Museums’ virtual tour
Soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate murals and tapestries, the Vatican’s museums are
creatively rich sites. Don’t forget to look up when exploring the seven spaces in the
museum’s virtual tour, to gawp at a series of 360-degree images, including the Sistine
Chapel. Wander around the rest of Vatican City with a You Visit tour that takes in Saint
Peter’s Basilica and Square, complete with a tour guide narrating each interactive
Guggenheim – Bilbao, Spain
Frank Gehry’s sculptured titanium and steel building, on the banks of the Nervión River,
is one of the world’s most distinctive art spaces. The interactive tour takes viewers
around its collection of postwar American and European painting and sculpture –
Rothko, Holzer, Koons, Kapoor – and even down between the weathered curves of
Serra’s Matter of Time (turn left at the entrance).
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum – New York, New
Founded in 1937, the Guggenheim is among the world’s foremost institutions dedicated to
fostering an understanding of contemporary art and architecture. Over 200 works from its
impressive holdings are viewable through Google’s portal, including Glenn Ligon’s Prisoner
of Love #2 and Julieta Aranda’s Two shakes, a tick and a jiffy.
Rijksmuseum – Amsterdam, Netherlands
This grand museum has a vast collection of art and historical objects across 80
galleries. A 10-year renovation project was completed in 2013, transforming the space
and combining elements of 19th-century grandeur with modern lighting and a new
glass-roofed atrium. The interactive tour helps viewers get up close to every brush
stroke by Vermeer, Rembrandt and other Dutch masters while exploring the Great Hall
and beyond.
A view of a gallery in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art,
South Korea
Installation view, Park Myung-rae, 2015, From the collection of National Museum of
Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
There are several sites making up this museum: the main gallery in Gwacheon and
branches in Deoksugung, Seoul and Cheongju. The virtual tours explore an inspiring
mix of print, design, sculpture, photography, new media and other large-scale
installations. From Joseph Beuys to Warhol and Nam June Paik, the collection includes
an international lineup of established artists, contemporary Korean artworks and
emerging names.
Musée d’Orsay – Paris, France
Musee d’Orsay virtual tour screenshot
In the former Gare d’Orsay, a Paris railway station and hotel, the musée is home to
Cézanne, Monet and other French masters. Under a 138m-long curved glass roof, sits
the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist works in the world.
The virtual tour also includes an online exhibition charting the history of the building.
And over on Tourist Tube there’s a 360-degree view of the magnificent exterior.
British Museum – London, England
British Museum’s History Connected infographic platform
There are 3,212 panes of glass in the domed ceiling of the British Museum’s Great
Court, and no two are the same – and the 360-degree view in this virtual tour lets
viewers examine each and every one. Beyond this magnificent space, viewers can find
the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and other ancient wonders. The museum’s
interactive infographic platform, History Connected, goes into further depth of various
objects with curators, along a timeline.
MASP – São Paulo, Brazil
Screenshot from MASP, Sao Paulo, online virtual tour
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo has one of the broadest historical collections available
to view via its virtual gallery platform, spanning from the 14th to 20th centuries.
Paintings appear suspended in the air around the open-plan space, on glass panels or
“crystal easels” as the museum calls them. There’s also a temporary retrospective
exhibition by Brazilian pop artist Teresinha Soares beside the building’s statement red
staircase. The glass and red-beam structure, built in 1968, is worth a look from the
outside too, via Google Street View.
National Gallery – London, England
A backdrop to London’s four lions in Trafalgar Square, the National is home to 2,300
publicly-owned paintings, watercolours, drawings and other European art from the 13th
to the mid-20th century. There are seven exhibition spaces of Renaissance art and the
Central Hall to explore in its 360-view virtual touring pages, from portraits to large
dramatic altarpieces.
A woman walks through The National Gallery minutes before it closes until further
notice, in London. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Tate Britain – London, England
One of the UK’s most respected museums, the Tate was opened in 1897 and has built
perhaps the foremost collection of British art dating back to the the Tudor era and including
a large holding of J.M.W. Turner’s work. Two-hundred and seventy works of arts––from
Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s Proserpine to Millais’s Ophelia––are available through Google.
La Galleria Nazionale – Rome, Italy
With over 20,000 artworks, La Galleria Nazionale’s collection includes pieces from antiquity
to more contemporary works belonging to the Futurism and Surrealism movements. Nearly
500 works from its collection are digitally documented, including Monet’s Ninfee Rosa,
Antonio Canova’s Ercole e Lica and Boldini’s Ritratto di Mademoiselle Lanthèlme.

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