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Culture, Free Museums, Lifestyle, Tips

20 Ways to Enjoy World-Class Art for Free Online

March 22, 2020 by Christina Champlin
Carlos Cruz-Diez, “Chromosaturation,” at Palm Springs Art Museum / Photo by: We Like L.A.

In the coming weeks, most of us are going to be spending a lot of time at home. The default to boredom may be “Netflix and chill,” but we can’t forget our most iconic cultural institutions. Our beloved Getty, LACMA, Broad, and MOCA have all been forced to close due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy what these institutions and countless others around the world offer online. With just one click, you can be transported into a museum for a virtual tour. Many institutions also have robust YouTube channels with insights into some of the greatest minds in the art world. The opportunities are boundless.

Although sitting at home in sweats isn’t ideal, treat these online experiences like a special occasion. Get creative and sip on some wine while listening to The Metropolitan Opera. Munch on popcorn while watching incredible performances. Or, set up a screen share with some friends and virtually explore a museum as a group. It’s all free.

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Museums around the world are also using the hashtag #museummomentsofzen on Instagram to post art that helps relax the viewer. Others are using hashtag #museumfromhome to post artwork, videos, and, occasionally, silly updates—like the adorable rats over at the California Science Center exploring on foot inside clear hamster balls.

If nothing else, take a moment to appreciate all the institutions that have taken the time throughout the years to log and upload content.

1. A theater artist from Toronto created The Social Distancing Festival. Set to launch on March 21, 2020, the page gathers livestreams and videos of all types of performances for the public to enjoy.

2. The Getty Museum put together a starter kit of online art, books, and videos to help keep the public’s artistic spirit alive.

3. Southern California Institute of Architecture‘s (SCI-Arc) YouTube channel is perfect for design and architecture fans. There are videos of gallery exhibits, interviews with leaders in the design field, and stunning student works from SCI-Arc’s EDGE Fiction & Entertainment Masters of Arts program.

4. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s (MOCA) YouTube channel features videos relating to current and past exhibitions, interviews with artists, and every episode of MOCA’s punk documentary series “The Art of Punk.

5. The Hammer has an archive of videos from lectures, conversations, forums, and performances dating back to 2014.

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6. California African American Museum‘s (CAAM) YouTube channel features short videos of exhibiting artists, past projects, special programs, and curator discussions.

7. The Grammy Museum is offering digital programs, exhibits, and educational content—some of which the public’s never seen before. This includes artist interviews, slideshows, lesson plans, playlists, and more. Look for updated programs every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday here.

8. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York is among the most revered art institutions in the world. Its Digital Digest is a selection of videos, articles, and online resources created by The Met. The public can learn about famous painters, discover art-making activities for the whole family, and enjoy concerts by musicians around the world.

9. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York’s YouTube channel has in-depth content covering aspects of the art world we don’t normally see. Observe what it takes to run a modern museum in the documentary series “At the Museum.” Learn how conservators take care of artwork. Or, watch creative thinkers describe a single piece of art at MoMA. This is a chance for the public to put themselves in the shoes of people who live and breathe art.

10. The Metropolitan Opera will stream a different opera from its collection each night. Performances kick off at 7:30 p.m. EST and will remain online for 20 hours from March 16-22.  

11. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York created a page on its site offering the Guggenheim experience from home. The public can take a tour of the UNESCO World Heritage site built by Frank Lloyd Wright, view artworks from the collection, or watch short interviews with contemporary artists who’ve been featured at the Guggenheim.

12. The British Museum in London has an online interactive timeline that lets people explore artifacts from past civilizations around the world. You can filter by different topics—including “living and dying,” “religion and belief,” and “trade and conflict”—all from different eras.

13. Natural History Museum in London is home to over 80 million specimens ranging from meteorites to spiders and giant squid. You can get a close look at some of these specimens on the museum’s YouTube channel.

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14. Every week, The Tate in London offers new content on its YouTube channel. Learn how great artists create their work, including the prolific Ai Weiwei’s large-scale installation Sunflower Seeds (2010) and a time-lapse video of Yayoi Kusama creating the Obliteration Room.

15. The Royal Opera House in London has a YouTube channel filled with performances, masterclass videos, rehearsals, and past livestreams.

16. The Louvre in France offers “visites en ligne” a.k.a. virtual tours of the iconic museum. The museum also has a YouTube channel with videos of past exhibitions, conferences, and a 2016 YouTubers project where the museum gave creators carte blanche to make videos “on the museum, its works, its history, and its imagination.”

17. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam carries the largest collection of works by Vincent Van Gogh. Online, the public can view over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and over 750 personal letters.

18. The Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is where artist Frida Kahlo lived and died. Today, it’s home to a museum honoring her artistic legacy. Digitally access over 70 of Kahlo’s personal items, including artworks, attire, her studio, her kitchen, and more.

19. The Israel Museum in Israel offers virtual tours of its massive collection of archaeology, Jewish ritual objects, fine arts, and contemporary works.

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20. The Vancouver Symphony livestreamed its final performance during BeethovenFest. It’s available to view and listen to here.

Some other ideas…

And if this list isn’t enough, head to the Google Art & Culture page where you can take a virtual tour of over 2,500 museums and other cultural spaces throughout the world.

When you’re tired of looking at creations by some of the greatest artists in history, turn your attention to the Museum of Bad Art. The museum is dedicated to preserving, collecting, and celebrating unfortunate works. A tour of these works can be found on the front page.

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