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Art in the Time of COVID-19

Gallery of European paintings at the Metropoliatan Museum of Art in New York City.

By Luke Leither

Being stuck in our homes and barred from museums and galleries doesn’t mean we can’t learn about and appreciate art. Many libraries, cultural institutions, and museums have been working for years on building virtual experiences. While it is often not as gratifying as standing in front of a physical object, the virtual environment does add some value. For example, zooming into a painting so close you can see individual brushstrokes, or embedded audio/video about artists, materials, and the objects themselves.

So, if you’re feeling in need of a little art, take a look at the website of your favorite museum, library, or gallery. You might be surprised what you find.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some suggestions:

  • ArtStor (requires CIS username and password):
    • Artstor is a digital library of more than one million images and 360° panoramas of art, architecture, cultural objects, maps, ephemera, and more. Artstor collections comprise contributions from museums, libraries, photo archives, scholars, artists and artists’ estates, and photographers.
  • J. Willard Marriott Digital Library
    • The Marriott has an incredibly rich set of resources available for free from anywhere in the world. Search over 330 digital collections, containing over 1 million digital photographs, maps, books, videos, audio recordings, and other items.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • The Met’s website is a goldmine of information as well as a portal into their permanent collections. Here is a description of some of their current offerings online: Experience The Met online, anywhere. There’s a whole host of material available on for all our visitors to enjoy. Visitors can take a deep dive into art history through essays and chronologies on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, a trusted resource for over twenty years, for example. Many of our iconic spaces have been captured in magnificent detail so you can visit them virtually, and our Primers will give you access to select exhibitions and installations, including Gerhard Richter: Painting After All and The British Galleries.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
    • Explore the Institute’s expansive collections, read essays, hear behind-the-scenes stories, and much more with their offerings online. From their site: Wherever you are, whatever the time, our online resources are always here to connect you to our collection of art from around the world—whether you’re seeking inspiration, community, or a little adventure.
  • Art21
    • Interested in contemporary art? If so, Art21 is an excellent place to start. Over the years they have produced 100s of hours of content, often directly interfacing with some of the most prominent artists of our time. Here is a description from their site: Art21 provides unparalleled access to the artist’s voice to diverse audiences around the world, using the power of digital media to introduce millions of people to contemporary art and artists. For over two decades, Art21 has changed the paradigm for teaching and learning about the creative process.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
    • LACMA is a museum that is constantly experimenting and engaging their audiences in exciting ways. This period of unprecedented shutdown is no different as they offer a diverse collection of content to their virtual visitors. Here is a description of the museum from their website: Located on the Pacific Rim, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of more than 142,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Committed to showcasing a multitude of art histories, LACMA exhibits and interprets works of art from new and unexpected points of view that are informed by the region’s rich cultural heritage and diverse population.
  • Google Arts & Culture
    • Finally, if you want a one-stop-shop, visit Google Arts & Culture which presents high-resolution photos of 32,000 artworks from 46 museums from around the world. Additionally, you can find educational content and virtual walkthroughs of many of the partnering museums.

Again, these are suggestions to simply get you started and are primarily US focused. Spend some time exploring your favorite cultures and countries by visiting the websites of their museums and libraries. It will be well worth your time. You can also find some additional suggestions for art appreciation, education, and academic exploration through my subject guides:

Be well and we hope to see you soon!

Luke Leither | Interim Head of Creativity & Innovation Services
Creativity & Innovation Services / Fine Arts & Architecture Library

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