Armchair Culture: gallery-going from your own front room

— by Alyson Walsh

Inside the Guggenheim Museum NYC


Museum and art gallery doors may be closed, but there are plenty of online resources for Armchair Gallery-Going. And as the curator of 16th century art at The National Gallery, Dr Matthias Wivel points out, ‘Art provides a solace, helps distract you a bit when things are really difficult, and helps us think about the fundamental concerns of being human.’ 

Take your mind off grim reality with our selection of virtual tours, websites and TV programmes. Here’s where to find the best Armchair Culture:

Now’s the time to catch-up with Bridget Riley

Visiting the main London galleries has never been easier. First stop the National Gallery’s glorious Titian exhibition which opened and then closed within three days. Love, Desire, Death unites the artist’s seven masterpieces for the first time in three centuries (there’s a brilliant tour with curator Matthias Wivel on Facebook  HERE). Then off to the Design Museum to listen to Design Dispatches – this week the museum’s director Tim Marlow is in conversation with fashion designer Bella Freud. And there are some great resources on the Tate Galleries website, including podcasts and playlists, the kids section has lots of at-home projects such as How to paint like Frank Bowling and How to weave like Anni Albers. While art-loving fans of Bill Nighy will enjoy the actor’s short tour of the Courtauld GalleryIf you missed the recent Bridget Riley retrospective, now’s the time to catch-up. The South Bank Centre’s website features talks and written articles on the Great British artist. For more Women in Art, click over to the wonderful Great Women Artists website created by art historian Katy Hessel – there are over 20 podcasts to listen to, or for a quick art fix have a scroll through the Great Women Artists on Instagram.

How about taking this opportunity to see the Mona Lisa without crowds at The Louvre in Paris? Or click on over to Amsterdam for a spin around the Van Gogh Museum  – watch David Hockney discussing landscape painting and the Dutch artist’s colourful work on YouTube,’ or browse Van Gogh’s  collection of Japanese prints HERE. Then take a tourist-free trip across town to the Rijksmuseum to view the great Rembrandts and Vermeers in Masterpieces Up Close

Photo: Guggenheim

Cross the Atlantic from your couch and visit the National Gallery of Art  in Washington for a tour of the Degas exhibition and then scoot on over to the west coast for the Michaelangelo: Mind of the Master exhibition at The Getty Center in LA. We love the museum’s art challenge on Twitter and Instagram –  The Getty invited people to recreate a masterpiece at home and the response has been phenomenal (check out the David Hockney). No need to pay that pricey admission fee at famous New York establishments when you can enjoy video content, artist’s profiles and virtual tours at the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA has an excellent Distance Learning section) and take the splendid  podcast tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s beautiful building with Roman Mars (host of 99% Invisible) with the Guggenheim at Home.

The Hermitage in St Petersburg is a vast site with stunning gilded palaces and incomparable collections containing over three million works of art and artefacts, this could take a few days…. Always crowded, this incredible place  is now yours to explore from the comfort of your own front room.

It’s certainly not the same as wandering through the lovely grounds but even a quick glimpse of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park can lift the spirits. And we’ll end this global tour by heading back to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford ( part of the University of Oxford) for a virtual tour of the galleries and spot of online artefact browsing.

Finally, our fabulous BBC has responded to the crisis with an ‘online festival,’ Culture in Quarantine. Here you’ll find some of the best art critics and broadcasters covering major exhibitions; plus, music, theatre and dance. More Armchair Culture can be found over on BBC4 where film critic Mark Kermode discusses Secrets of Cinema, and writer and broadcaster Waldemar Januszczak uncovers hidden meanings in four world famous paintings, in The Art Mysteries. Though it’s no longer on iPlayer, it is still possible to head east for the BBC 2017 series The Art of Japanese Life with Dr James Fox, on YouTube. And if you haven’t watched it already, we highly recommend Secrets of the Museum about the V&A, on BBC2.






Compiled by Alyson Walsh and Antonia Cunliffe


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  Museum and art gallery doors may be closed, but there are plenty of online resources for Armchair Gallery-Going. And as the curator of 16th century art at The National Gallery, Dr Matthias Wive…