Our much-loved museums and art galleries may be closing their doors due to the current outbreak, but don’t despair. Tech-savvy curators are getting creative with how the public can access their collections, and many are catering to an online audience with insanely good virtual tours.
Top-tier institutions around the world have vast online archives, meaning you can take a digital stroll through art history wearing just your pants (or even less if you really want). From ogling Parisian Impressionist works in the Musée d’Orsay to a lesson in ancient Greece from Athens’ Benaki Museum to a voyeuristic archive of ex-lovers’ relics at the Museum of Broken Relationships, there are some fascinating exhibitions at your fingertips – all of which are free.
So pop the kettle on, settle into the sofa and gear up for some seriously enlightening self-isolation with these museums you can explore from home.
Virtual museum tours around the world
The British Museum is the OG national museum. When it opened in 1759 it was the first of its kind to open to the public in the whole world, and they’re still showing us how it’s done today. The graphics on this tour are crazy; think an intergalactic guitar fretboard. Tap through a musical guide to Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Europe – and play a little tune along the way.
Virtual tour of the British Museum
Thousands visit the Gugg every day just to explore its epic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, and thanks to this Google Street View tour you can still wander its halls from your couch. Peruse the museum’s most significant offerings of postmodern, conceptual and installation art, then head to the homepage for a bumper database of its entire collection.
Virtual tour of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Over in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum is an oasis of classical Dutch art, Asian artefacts and 17th-century silver and porcelain. The Street View-style tour is fine, but better to stick to the brilliant online exhibitions, like the interactive guide to the master of throwing shade, Rembrandt. You can even get up close and personal with ‘The Night Watch’.
Virtual tour of the Rijksmuseum
Fancy a trip to Paris? Oui oui! This grand museum holds the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works in the world, and you can click your way through the very best among them thanks to interactive galleries featuring van Gogh, Cézanne, Degas and more.
Virtual tour of the Musée d’Orsay
Forty-five seconds. That’s how long you normally have to bathe in the twinkling, reflective abyss of Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinite Mirrored Room’ at the Broad. But now you can spend as much time with its signature piece as you’d like – virtually, at least. As part of its Broad from Home initiative, you can watch a video of Kusama’s artwork set to a spacey soundtrack.
Virtual tour of ‘Infinite Mirrored Room’ at the Broad
You can scroll through more than 300,000 works in the digital archives of the Uffizi, Florence’s treasure chest of Renaissance art. Botticelli, Titian and Canaletto – all the big boys are here. Click on the HyperVisions tab for thoughtfully curated tours around themes such as angels, epiphany and ‘intercultural vision’. Deep.
Virtual tour of the Uffizi Gallery
This could be a touchy subject for quarantining couples, but the Museum of Broken Relationships takes a nostalgic look at old flames – and it’s really quite beautiful. Each item on display represents the donor’s ex, and the stories behind them range from uplifting to heartbreaking. Who knew an old toaster could be so poignant?
Virtual tour of the Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museu de Arte de São Paulo has a very particular way of displaying artwork in their galleries: paintings are hung on crystal easels that make them look like they’re floating mid-air. Check it out on their virtual gallery, which also features online exhibits of art from Brazil and beyond.
Virtual tour of MASP
Like most museums around the world, the National Gallery of Victoria has temporarily closed its doors. But those who missed out on its big-hitting ‘Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines’ show (plus other curious art fans around the world) are in luck: the exhibition is now available as a free virtual tour led by the curator.
Virtual tour of the National Gallery of Victoria
As well as a vast online catalogue of Pablo’s best bits, this temple to all things Picasso offers a 360-degree tour of some of the best-preserved Medieval architecture in Barcelona. When you’re done snooping around the building, check out their Twitter hashtag #MuseuPicassoVirtual to break up your newsfeed with daily doses of art.
Virtual tour of Picasso Museum
The National Gallery has 42,462 items on its Google Arts & Culture site that you can browse directly or check out under headings such as Renaissance, Engravings, etc. Want more? The museum’s homepage brings together all of its copious holdings, along with slideshows of current exhibitions like ‘Degas at the Opera’.
Virtual tour of the National Gallery of Art
Head to the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s website and you can stroll around all of its public galleries. Don’t miss recent hit exhibition ‘Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670’ – an impressive collection of 80 paintings never before seen in Spain. The other institutions that make up Madrid’s ‘Golden Triangle’, the Prado and Reina Sofía, are also offering virtual tours.
Virtual tour of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
You can browse 572 artworks on the Institute’s virtual tour, which includes Edward Hopper’s noirish ode to urban alienation, ‘Nighthawks’. If you’re looking for something more upbeat, there’s also Georges Seurat’s Post-Impressionist masterpiece, ‘A Sunday on La Grande Jatte’.
Virtual tour of the Art Institute of Chicago
The lord giveth and he taketh away. At least, that’s what happened when the Andy Warhol retrospective opened at Tate Modern on March 12, before swiftly closing on March 17 thanks to lockdown measures ramping up in London. Well, now the lord giveth back again: the Tate has made a virtual tour of the show available on its YouTube channel and website.
Virtual tour of the Tate Modern
Take a virtual wander through ancient Greece with the Benaki Museum’s 360-degree tour. It’s easy to get lost in their unrivalled collection of artefacts – from ancient fertility statues to gilded Byzantine paintings – with some dating back as far as 6500BC.
Virtual tour of Benaki Museum
Go on a treasure hunt in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, home to a massive collection of Chinese arts and crafts from the neolithic to the modern era. Choose from a selection of guided tours and click on anything that piques your interest as you mooch around.
Virtual tour of National Palace Museum
You can view 129 artworks from MoMA’s collection on Google, including big-hitters like van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’, Paul Cézanne’s ‘Still Life with Apples’ and Rousseau’s ‘The Sleeping Gypsy’. What’s more, they’re grouped into categories such as contemporary art, Modernist art and Cubism – making for fun, easy and informative browsing.
Virtual tour of Museum of Modern Art
More museum tours
It’s good to know that way before everything went crazy, most of London’s museums digitised their collections and even created virtual tours of their spaces. From Tate Modern through to the Natural History Museum, here are our favourite virtual tours of our most beloved London cultural institutions.
Available in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the tours feature images from various collections and, in some cases, walkabouts through parts of the museum via street view.
You may not be able to visit L.A.’s best museums right now as they’re all temporarily closed, but you can bring a little piece of them home with you. And no, we’re not encouraging art theft.
Who among us couldn't use a classy, calming dose of fine art? Boston's museums are up there with the best, and you can explore most of them online for free.
While you could spend this time time streaming or navigating social media, you might want to consider using the opportunity to up your cultural game by virtually touring the best online museum experiences in the United States.
In Madrid, Barcelona and beyond, museums and art galleries are contributing to helping us get our art fix by providing online versions of their collections for us to enjoy.