9 Dazzling Virtual Art Experiences You Can Have From the Comfort of Your Home, Including a Memorable Trip to the Sistine Chapel

It's never been easier to visit the world's greatest museums and cultural sites remotely.

A visit to the Sistine Chapel is just one of many virtual art experiences you can have from home. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
A visit to the Sistine Chapel is just one of many virtual art experiences you can have from home. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The moods of quarantine are fickle, as we’re all learning. One minute you might be longing to galavant in the great outdoors, and the next, you’re wondering when you’ll be able to return to the crowded halls of a great museum. And if you’re one of those art-worlders who never miss a gala, let alone an opening, the next few weeks may feel nothing short of deflating.

Thankfully, digital art experiences—from Google’s dazzling Arts & Culture platform to 360-degree displays of gallery exhibitions—can carry us away from our humble abodes (which may feel increasingly claustrophobic) and out into the wider world. 

Below, we rounded up some of the best virtual art experiences to fulfill your art-centric quarantine needs. 

 

If you’re wishing you could ditch your apartment for a palatial promenade… 

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Photo by Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images.

Have you been dreaming that the weird half-closet in the living room is actually a portal to a vast estate? If so, it might be time to explore some of the sprawling estates and opulent palaces navigable on the incredibly rich Google Arts & Culture platform. Take a virtual spin through regal Vienna by touring through the gilded, opulent Schönbrunn Palace, home of the Habsburgs, or by wandering the Belvedere, home to Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Then quickly jaunt over to Versailles, perhaps to virtually stroll to Marie Antoinette’s private home Petit Trianon.

If you have an afternoon to while away, another option is a five-hour, scored tour through the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg courtesy of Apple. The opulent video is an extended advertisement for the new iPhone (and a testament to its battery life), but it’s also a mesmerizing look into one of the world’s most lavish museums, and includes a tour through the Winter Palace, the former home of Russia’s monarchs.

 

If you’re seeking a moment of zen… 

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Rubin Museum of Art.

And who isn’t right now? Lucky for us, the Rubin Museum’s Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room is now accessible via the web. You can choose between a two-hour video recordingaccompanied by Buddhist chants and flickering candlelight, or a self-guided virtual tour of the space, where you can take time to learn about the individual objects inside.

 

If you’re longing for a lunchtime museum excursion… 

Glenn Ligon, Some Black Parisians (2019). Courtesy the Musée d'Orsay.

Glenn Ligon, Some Black Parisians (2019). Courtesy the Musée d’Orsay.

While it’s not likely many of us ever made time for a midday museum visit during the workweek, now that the option is wholly out of reach, the notion seems even more idyllic. Why not make a point to pause your work obligations at midday, and use Google Arts & Culture, which offers access to over 500 institutions, to explore some of the world’s greatest museums? There are some architectural gems too, including the Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed spiral ramp, the Musée d’Orsay, a former railway station, and even Rome’s MAXXI National Museum, designed by Zaha Hadid.

 

If you’re missing Thursday night gallery-hopping… 

Aki Kuroda, Space Magic (2019). Photo courtesy of Richard Taittinger Gallery.

Aki Kuroda, Space Magic (2019). Photo courtesy of Richard Taittinger Gallery. Kuroda’s exhibition is currently viewable for virtual touring on Eazel.

Bust out a bottle of wine, video chat some friends, and head out on a simulated gallery crawl of New York, London, or Berlin, via the Artland or Eazel platforms, which offer 3D tours of gallery exhibitions. If you’re feeling ambitious, why not tour the galleries of a city you’ve never visited? Copenhagen and Seoul both have lots of offerings.  

 

If you’re longing for La Dolce Vita… 

Michelangelo used help from assistants to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the 16th century. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Michelangelo used help from assistants to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the 16th century. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Though it may be a while before any of us can see Italy’s many famed cultural sites in person, for now, we can visit them on our laptops. In the north of Italy, several museums have undertaken bold online initiatives. Turin’s Castello di Rivoli has released digital tours and related videos for three just-opened (then abruptly closed) exhibitions. Similarly, the contemporary art hub Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo has undertaken a series of new online tours and social-media initiatives.

And in Rome, the seriousness of the lockdown was underscored by the Vatican’s announcement that Easter mass would be celebrated by the pontiff—but without a public audience. For those longing to see the rich treasures of the Holy See, the Vatican Museum offers virtual tours, and this may be your one shot for an uncrowded peek at the Sistine Ceiling.

 

If you’re looking for a socially distant life drawing class… 

A 3-D image of the Ancient Roman sculpture The Doryphoros (120–50 BCE). Courtesy of the Minnepolis Institute of Art.

A 3D image of the Ancient Roman sculpture The Doryphoros (120–50 BCE). Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Have your pencils and charcoals ready, but stuck with an unwilling roommate? The Minneapolis Institute of Art is offering the next best thing with a searchable collection of 3D photographs of 138 objects from its collection, which allows at-home visitors to experience—and sketch—works in the round. If you’re proud of your final product, you can send images back to the museum to be uploaded to their website.

 

If your destination vacation is indefinitely postponed…  

The 60 Dome Mosque.

The 60 Dome Mosque of Bagerhat, Bangladesh. Founded in the 15th Century of the city of mosques is one of the many ancient cultural destinations that can be toured on Google’s Open Heritage platform.

Get off the beaten path… while staying on your couch. Google also offers virtual tours of ancient heritage sites through Open Heritage. Explore famous destinations including Machu Picchu, Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza, or discover a wealth of lesser-known but equally fascinating wonders. Google also recently announced Heritage on the Edge, a partnership with UNESCO that details five heritage sites threatened by climate change through 2D and 3D maps. Learn how conservationists and environmentalists are working to preserve the monumental totemic sculptures of Easter Island and fighting devastating salt-water floods threatening the ancient city of mosques in Bagerhat, Bangladesh.

 

If you’re missing the world’s most popular museum…

A screenshot from the Louvre's online tour of its Egyptian Wing.

A screenshot from the Louvre’s online tour of its Egyptian Wing.

The Louvre has three of its own virtual tours, including one of the remains of the museum’s moat (from the era of Louvre’s former life as a fortress), a tour of the Galerie d’Apollon, and as well as a “walkable” scroll through the Ancient Egyptian wing, where you can stop and marvel at sphinxes and mummies.

 

If you’re running out of (illustrated) reading materials… 

A folio from the original Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, available to browse on the British Library website.

An illustrated folio from the original Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, available to browse on the British Library website.

You’ll find plenty to peruse the British Library’s flippable site, where you can examine illuminated manuscripts and rare illustrated books, including Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook and the original Alice in Wonderland (called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground), illustrated by Lewis Carroll himself.


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