Viewing art in the time of coronavirus has shifted from physical museums to virtual tours. While this happened, something else shifted underneath society. We have mutally discovered how the arts keep us sane and connected during lockdown. Whether an entire town singing from balconies or an individual dancing with himself in front of a mirror, we’ve discovered that creativity and expression help assauge aloneness. When people sing together in a Zoom mosaic of faces and voices, they strengthen connections despite physical distance.
All those who have said that studying the arts is useless should heed what’s happening. The arts sustain us. They allow us to soar beyond our small spaces and into the world. They reach across language barriers, oceans, and cultures to establish a human bond where perhaps none existed before. For that reason, I’ve chosen to focus this article on the visual arts currently locked away in collections but now available for all of us to visit, virtually.
In the past couple of years, I’ve had the good fortune to visit some fabulous art museums. Because so many have opened up their art via online tours, I’ve narrowed down the choices to those places I have visited myself in the past eighteen months.
My visit to the Rijksmuseum during an August 2019 trip to Amsterdam ended up as one of that year’s highlights. The same can be said of its new virtual tour during life in the time of coronavirus. By far my favorite art tour, you can walk down hallways, click on paintings, and listen to commentary.
Fundació Joan Miró
Barcelona‘s museum dedicated to Joan Miró offers online close-ups of 45 major works housed in the museum. Select the thumbnail image of the work, then choose the expand option to fill your browser window. The bigger your browser window, the more detail you can see.
Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Another gem in the city of Amsterdam! Because Van Gogh wasn’t appreciated during his lifetime, many of his major works stayed with family and friends. Those works reside here, in the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam. Because the museum does not allow photography, you can see the artwork only in person or online.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
As members, my husband and I visit the wonderful Philadelphia Museum of Art several times a year. Perhaps most famous for the “Rocky steps” leading up to it, the building houses a world-class collection. Even after many years, we still find art that we hadn’t seen before. The collection displayed online leave something to be desired because not all art can be enlarged and that which can doesn’t get as large as I’d like. But it’s still fun to peer into the collection.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence displays many of its major works, complete with curator remarks. Like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the images don’t fill the browser screen; however, the commentary is educational.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
During our trip to Venice, pre-flood and pre-coronavirus, we visited the Doge’s Palace, known more properly as Palazzo Ducale. In this historic building, art is built into the walls and ceilings. Click on the arrows and the works themselves to move about the room.
Many more sites than the above exist online to bring art into your home. These are merely meant to get you started. Explore the visual arts on your own or with your family, and talk about what makes each work compelling. Try to pin down the emotions they evoke. Art in the time of coronavirus may not be as awe-inspiring as standing in front of a masterpiece in person, but it can uplift you during an otherwise difficult time.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann