I am fascinated by art and I would dearly love to have more time to explore the great museums of the world. I count myself very lucky that I have been to quite a few. Off the top of my head I have seen: The Louvre in Paris (pictured), The Museo d’Arte Moderna and the Vatican Museums in Rome, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery (Smithsonian) in Washington, DC. And those are just the big, traditional, Western ones I have been to.
Art for me offers a way into the kind of self-expression I seek in my writing, especially my fiction. I can open an art book to any page and in attempting to describe the artwork pictured, I can figure out how to tell the stories I want to tell. The cool thing is, I have noticed that over the past couple of years, the great museums have been opening their doors to the virtual world, offering online curated glimpses into the works on display in their physical museums and sneak peeks of artworks in their private “vaults.”
This topic came to mind as I read blogger Cristian Mihai’s recent post on Google’s Cultural Institute, which half of me thinks is a great idea and the other half thinks, “Wow. A totally virtual world is being created here. I will never have to leave this little room.”
So I offer the following link love to the world of virtual art curating–here’s to getting lost in a museum!
The Louvre—The Louvre offers a learning tab on its website called “A Closer Look,” which is just what it says: an in depth look at some of the Louvre’s most famous pieces. If you have ever asked yourself the question, “What’s the big deal about the Mona Lisa anyway?” check out this online learning series. I found the presentation a little stiff but the detailed analysis and historical background of the artworks puts these cultural icons in perspective.
The Prado–The Prado in Madrid offers Pradomedia, detailing important exhibitions in Spain’s famous National Museum as explained (in Spanish with English subtitles) by museum curators. Because this is video, you get an idea of the size of the paintings in their museum home as the narrator explores the philosophies behind the arrangement of these objets d’art.
The Hermitage–housed in Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, The Hermitage offers a unique spin on the virtual tour with its Digital Collection. (Note: you must have the Java plug in to browse the artworks.) From the Hermitage website:
“As a rule all exhibits must be handled with great care that is why the visitors of museums very often have to scrutinize works of art through glass or from behind the barrier. You will have a unique opportunity to view masterpieces of the Hermitage using an innovative technology of IBM. Choosing the section Digital Library select the exhibit you are interested in. Using Enlarged image you can see the exhibits in the enlarged size and scrutinize their slightest details.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art—The Met’s 82nd & Fifth series is my favorite of these glimpses of the great museums. The curators have put together short, topically driven talks that tie the artwork to an emotion or a physical feeling in an unexpected way. For a unique take on LOVE, check out Mia Fineman talking about Adam Fuss’s photogram of rabbits and their guts. Yes, really! You can subscribe to this feature via email and have art in your inbox every week or so.
The Google Cultural Institute–The more I looked through Google’s new venture, especially the YouTube channel, the cooler it got to me. See what you think.
Do you think the art and culture can and should be shared virtually in this way? Is it the same experience as you would get with the live version? Better? Worse? Do you like your art placed in context by a curator, or would you rather form your own cultural linkages and opinions?