In a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19, London’s museums and galleries have temporarily closed their doors. But in these challenging times, art can offer momentary escape from self-isolation reality. So, luckily for us, many of our much-loved institutions and galleries are now just a few clicks away. From virtual gallery tours of the British Museum to curated Instagram-only exhibitions, these are the best virtual art and museum tours to enjoy from the safety of your sofa, with more being announced every day. The bonus? It’s all free.
We will continue to update this list as more experiences and initiatives launch, to make sure you’re up to date with all the latest ways to enjoy the best of London’s culture while the city remains on lockdown.
Online Viewing Rooms
In light of the current health crisis, blue-chip galleries, such as David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth and Pace Gallery, have curated a selection of virtual exhibitions and online viewing rooms, where visitors can explore, purchase and engage with works by gallery artists. Hauser & Wirth hosts its inaugural online exhibition of drawings by Louise Bourgeois, while Pace presents a virtual showcase of new watercolours by abstract artist Sam Gilliam. In addition, you can browse a curated selection of pioneering light sculptures by James Turrell and large-scale installations by Julian Schnabel, among others.
Forthcoming virtual exhibitions at Pace include Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (14 — 28 April), which brings together works by some of the greatest photographers of our time, and All Creatures Great and Small (21 April — 5 May), a virtual celebration of the act of creation. In most cases, you will need to give your email address to enter. Lyndsey Ingram, a boutique gallery specialising in modern and contemporary British art, has also moved all of its activity online. Over the coming months, the gallery will host a series of virtual exhibitions to ensure continuity of its artistic programme.
With the recent closure of its galleries, the British Museum is making spectacular efforts to share as much of its eclectic collection as possible online and through its digital channels. Thanks to a collaboration with Google Street View, you can now virtually explore dozens of exhibition galleries, showcasing everything from Egyptian mummies and ancient Greek vases to European chronometers and Medieval sculpture. Meander around the galleries, click on objects to see them up close and discover their fascinating history. Virtual tours of the Prints and Drawings and Oceania collections are also available on the British Museum website, as is a multi-sensory Museum of the World Tour, which lets you explore works by century, continent and category. It’s glitch-free and extremely comprehensive. If you’ve got children at home, delve into the museum’s extensive collection of learning and activity resources catering for toddlers, teens and those in between.
Google Arts & Culture
Never made it to Tate, or the Science Museum for that matter? Well, now is your chance — if even from your sofa. While the quarantine measures keep you indoors, there’s nothing to stop you travelling the world in art and objects with Google Arts & Culture. In a bid to creatively engage audiences at home, the online content platform is now offering thousands of virtual 360° museum tours, with more than 80 London-based cultural institutions taking part. Wander (virtually, of course) around the capital’s leading galleries and discover such extraordinary treasures as Jan van Eyck’s Man in a Blue Cap (c.1430) and Proserpine (1874) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Share your experiences on Instagram with the hashtag #museumsfromhome.
Since throwing open its doors in 2019, Mayfair-based Guts Gallery has championed the ‘underrepresented’ voices of the art world. As the coronavirus crisis sets in, the gallery is putting its ethos into practice by staging a digital Instagram exhibition to help its artists navigate the setback.
When Shit Hits the Fan (26 March — 16 April) features works by more than 30 artists, including Robert Cooper, Kate Dunn and Florence Hutchings. At 6pm on Thursday 26 March the gallery will post all the works on Instagram, so you can like, comment, share and view the artworks in one time and space. Additionally, the gallery is launching the Guts Award. Each artist will vote for three fellow exhibiting artists they think should win the Guts Gallery Prize. The artist with the most votes will win a solo exhibition at The Room Upstairs Gallery later this year. A brilliant digital initiative that should be widely supported.
Find out more @guts_gallery
Distract yourself from the news with the Serpentine’s online programme of special broadcasts, podcasts and digital commissions. Thrust centre stage is a livestream of Catharsis, a digital simulation of a re-imagined old-growth forest by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen. Set up as a single continuous shot, Catharsis explores Steensen’s conception of ‘slow media’ and the ways in which digital technologies can draw attention to the natural world. Online, there are also video clips of past exhibitions and commissions. These include The Deep Listener — an audio-visual ecological expedition through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park by Jakob Kudsk Steensen — and an augmented reality tour of Suzanne Triester’s multi-part commission From SURVIVOR to The Escapist BHS (Black Hole Spacetime), which comprises an artist’s book and a web-based augmented reality work. You can also virtually tour Formafantasma: Cambio, an exhibition which looks at design’s ecological and political responsibilities through the Bloomberg Connects app.
Commission or purchase an artwork on Instagram
Never has there been a better time to support isolated artists, many of whom depend on exhibitions and galleries now closed due to Coronavirus. Scroll through your feed and you’ll stumble upon countless positive initiatives aiming to support those facing uncertain financial futures. One such brilliant example is the hashtag #artistsupportpledge. The concept is simple: artists post images of their work online to sell for no more than £200 each (not including shipping). Anyone can buy the work. Each time an artist reaches £1,000 of sales, he or she pledges to buy another artist’s work for £200.
British artist Stuart Semple is also causing a virtual stir with his free, live online life-drawing classes via Facebook. The first class drew more than 3,000 artists from around the world who later shared their work online with the hashtag #SempleLifeClassLive. The two-hour classes are free and open to all – keep checking his Facebook page to find out when the next class will be held.
Find out more @artistsupportpledge; @stuartsemple