This article was first published in Time Out and was written by Eddy Frankel.
Life without art and museums is just a whole lot of Netflix and cheap lager, that’s what self-isolation has taught me. Good heavens, I miss museums. The smell, the light, the people, the ART. I really miss art. But it’s good to know that way before everything went crazy last year, most of London’s museums digitised their collections and even created virtual tours of their spaces. If you miss those places as much as I do, especially now that we’re deep into yet another lockdown, then this might just be the balm your restless soul needs. From Tate Modern through to the Natural History Museum, here are our favourite virtual tours of our most beloved London cultural institutions.
The Tate’s collection is staggering: Monet, Picasso, Rothko, all the big names. In this tour, Tate Modern’s director Frances Morris takes you on a tour of one of the Tate’s new buildings, showing you works by Louise Bourgeois, Carl Andre and plenty of others. For some reason, Nick Grimshaw’s there too. I don’t know why. I don’t like it.
This is a virtual tour of a museum that was shut even before the current crisis. The Courtauld’s been closed for refurbishment for ages, but cleverly created this digital tour for posterity’s sake. It’s room by room, so start at the beginning with Cranach the Elder’s ‘Adam and Eve’, scoot through the portraits of old dead people in room four and then head straight for the Impressionist and modernist delights of rooms six and seven. Van Gogh, Manet, Kandinsky? Yes please!
Ah, London’s museum Marmite. The NPG is filled with stuff you either love or despise with a hatred so intense it’s all-consuming. ‘The Cholmondeley Ladies’ painting? Amazing, love it. The portrait of Ed Sheeran? I’d rather stab my eyes out with a pair of tweezers. But don’t listen to me, take the tour and decide for yourself.
This one’s done in collaboration with Google Street View, so you get all the thrills of scouring your local streets to see if they caught you picking your nose, but with paintings instead. The National Gallery’s collection has some of the greatest artists who ever lived – Renaissance masters, Baroque painters and Impressionist adventurers – and there is nowhere better to lose yourself for an afternoon in London. Plus, you get to stand in exactly the right spot to see the skull straighten out in Holbein’s ‘The Ambassadors’. And online, there are no Italian schoolkids with giant backpacks getting between you and the Raphael. Heaven.
Woo, things were hotting up for a while there with Brexit. As Britain formally withdrew from the European Union, bills were being drafted in Brussels that would basically force the British Museum to give the Parthenon Marbles back to Greece. The CV crisis has put the kibosh on all that for now, so there are probably some very relieved people at the BM. But in the meantime, let’s all enjoy it online while we can (and the mummies, obviously: everyone loves the mummies).
Want more virtual art exhibitions? Have a look at this heartbreaking show we’ve part-hosted here.
Then check out more virtual tours of museums around the world.