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The Rise of Virtual Art Museums

by Pharra Perry

Art is one of those things that will continue no matter the circumstances. People create art during difficult times to understand, to express themselves, and to connect with others. It never dies, it simply transforms.

Earlier this year, the brainchild of three Barcelona based art directors, the Covid Art Museum (CAM), emerged on Instagram as a way for artists and lovers of the arts to continue to share and connect. Artists spanning the globe across all levels from the seasoned professional who has been featured in the world’s most prominent galleries to the passionate amateur who finally has the spare time to sit down and create are featured on the CAM feed. When selecting which user submitted art to include, the curators don’t exclude any particular art medium meaning everything from video, photos, paintings, drawings, and animations are featured. The only criteria is that each piece must speak to the current moment.

The art ranges from thought-provoking to comedic to downright weird in some cases, but they all serve their purpose in helping to heal, inspire, and entertain during a time when things are rapidly fluctuating.

Around the Art World in 80 Minutes

CAM is just one example of art bred from quarantine. With many art museums still unable to open their physical spaces to the public, virtual galleries are growing in popularity to satiate hungry art fiends. In fact, it’s now possible to circle the globe touring the world’s finest art museums in one afternoon without having to switch out of those sweatpants.

While there are dozens of museums offering unique experiences, here are a few must-see exhibits:

  • Los Angeles’s Contemporary Art Museum, The Broad, is home to the ever popular Infinity Mirrored Room, an art installation by Yayoi Kusama that combines sound, light, and mirrors to completely immerse audiences into an eerie yet calming dive into space for a few minutes. It’s an incredible experience that the museum is now offering online via YouTube. Turn off the lights and full immerse into the void.

  • Brazil’s first modern art museum, The Museu de Arte de São Paulo, is offering walk-throughs for six different online galleries. The experience almost feels as real as being able to physically walk up to an art piece and stand in front of it. In fact, the same “no touching the art” rules still apply.

  • France’s Centre Pompidou, which is the largest museum for modern and contemporary art in Europe and is home to over 12,000 pieces of art is now offering virtual tours of its exhibits (en Français, bien sûr). Pour a glass of wine and pretend a crêpe is just on the other side of a few hours of perusing.

  • Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships, celebrates beauty in the pain by featuring the remnants of lost love. All of the items in the museum are donated or loaned from broken hearts. Everything from wedding dresses to frisbees to human skin (people hang on to weird things post-breakup) along with the heartbreaking tales that accompany them can be found here. The museum is now featuring some of its pieces online for a different type of art experience.

  • If all of this still isn’t enough, Google hosts an entire library of tours, walk throughs, exhibits, games, and a bevy of other immersive cultural programs via their Arts & Culture section. Many of the world’s biggest museums offer interactive exhibits through Google allowing for an art day for every type of art fanatic.

A New Kind of Art Experience

Art is meant to be a shared experience and virtual museums award the opportunity to share art on a grander scale. While CAM and some of the newer online museum content were created as a response to a time where accessing public museums isn’t a possibility, it’s likely we won’t see these digital galleries going anywhere post pandemic. After all, nothing beats seeing the real thing, but the digital versions are a definitely a welcomed substitute. Perhaps the future of museums is virtual or includes some sort of virtual component that enhances the in-person experience to continue to bring art to the masses. As the art world continues to respond and create for a rapidly changing society, the real winners in all of this are art patrons who get to watch in real time as art pushes itself to its creative limits and then goes just a little bit further.

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