Openings and Closings: Museums Go Digital

Jenamarie Boots Exhibitions

Le peintre à la Tour Eiffel by Marc Chagall, 1965-1970. Oil on masonite. 13 by 9 1/2 inches. Galerie Thomas.

While temporarily shuttered to stem the tide of the global coronavirus outbreak, many museums and cultural organizations are offering online tours of their galleries and exhibitions. Each week during the crisis, we’ll show you ways to enjoy the arts on your computer, phone, or any other web-enabled device.


Galerie d’Apollon restoration case study of Night or Diana by Charles Le Brun. Online tour. Louvre.

Louvre Online Tours, ongoing

The Louvre offers three digital “tours” of particular artworks and galleries ­that include Egyptian Antiquities, the Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, andthe Galerie d’Apollon. The Galerie d’Apollon (pictured) was restored between 2001 and 2004, revealing Charles Le Brun’s decorative murals painted in the 17th century. The restoration segment of this tour is particularly spectacular; you can watch the process unfold in animation or videos and read about the techniques involved.

Accessing the painting restoration takes three clicks: select “Restorations from 2001 to 2004” – then click the “Oil Paintings” sub-tab that appears – and finally, click the painting you are interested in to launch the animation or video.

Galerie d’Apollon ceiling of the Apollo Gallery. Online tour. Louvre.

The same can be done for “Decorative Paintings on Plaster,” “Stuccos,” “Gilding Techniques,” “The Gobelins Tapestries,” and “Paneling, furnishing.” The Gobelins tapestry restoration video was our favorite. The delicate handwork required to restore these textiles is marvelous!

Please note you will need an Adobe Flash Player on your device to take these tours, which are best accessed via web browsers like Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. You may have difficulty accessing via Google Chrome.


Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670 online tour at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisz with Gerard Reynst by Frans Badens in view.

Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670 at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, ongoing

The Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590-1670 exhibition has been fully digitized, even accessible and optimized for virtual-reality headsets. The exhibition consists of some thirty-nine Rembrandt portraits, along with major works by other artists of the Dutch Golden Age. In total there are 80 paintings, 16 prints and an etching plate to explore.

Gerard Reynst by Frans Badens, 1613. Oil on canvas. 76 1/2 by 47 inches. © The Weiss Gallery, London.

Depending on how you want to craft your experience, you can visit the exhibition page for some background content (or access to this Rembrandt themed Spotify playlist), gain insight from the online catalog, or go to the digital exhibition space directly. If you want to fully teleport, consider playing the themed playlist while you “walk” the gallery.

The content available from the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is optimized across all browsers and devices, including mobile phones and tablets.


Online tour view. Van Gogh Museum; view created by Google Arts and Culture.

Van Gogh Museum via Google Arts and Culture, ongoing

Amsterdam is calling you. The Van Gogh Museum is in the process of completing a super-high definition tour of the museum on YouTube – part one is available here – but in the meantime you can examine more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 750 letters by Vincent van Gogh through Google Arts and Culture and their virtual tours. Explore the ground floor, first floor, second floor, and third floor respectively.

Self-portrait with grey felt hat by Vincent Van Gogh, 1887. Oil on cotton. 17 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Interested in a particular item? Some 164 of them are available for study in detail, including a few of our favorites such as Self-portrait with grey felt hat, Sunflowers, and Irises. Click “View in Street View” if you want to jump directly to any of them as they appear in the digital museum.

This experience is optimized for Google Chrome, but you should not have issues accessing it with any other browser.


Online tour view. Musée d’Orsay; view created by Google Arts and Culture.

Musée d’Orsay via Google Arts and Culture, ongoing

When you’re done in Amsterdam, pop over to Paris. Tours of the Musée d’Orsay, where the focus is on art from 1848 to 1914, are also available via Google Arts and Culture. (Along with the digital visit, you may enjoy From station to the renovated Musée d’Orsay, a slideshow explaining how a train station was converted into the museum.) A few highlights we found during our digital tour – Van Gogh’s self portrait, Degas’s The Bellelli Family, and Manet’s The Balcony. (Again, as the tour proceeds, click “View in Street View” if you want to stop to study any artwork.)

The Balcony by Édouard Manet, 1868-1869. Oil on canvas. 67 by 49 inches. © Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt.

When you’re done exploring, you may also enjoy the d’Orsay’s YouTube offerings. Among them, a side-by-side examination of White Frost by Camille Pissarro and The Floor Planers by Gustave Caillebotte, and Heather Belnap’s talk Pioneering Women.

This experience is also optimized for Google Chrome; but you should not have issue accessing with any other browser.


Trois femmes à la fontaine by Pablo Picasso, 1921. Oil on canvas. 7 5/8 by 9 3/8 inches. Galerie Thomas.

Art Basel Hong Kong: Digital Viewing Rooms, available from March 20

Something to look forward to – Art Basel Hong Kong’s online viewing rooms: 2000 artworks, presented by 233 of the world’s leading galleries. The works included are paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, film, video and digital artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.

We’re looking forward in particular to exploring Galerie Thomas selection of works by Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Günther Förg, Tony Cragg, Marc Chagall, and others; Acquavella Galleries selection of master artworks by El Anatsui, Giacomo Balla, Alexander Calder, Richard Diebenkorn, Lucian Freud, and others; and Galerie Nichido’s selection of Japanese Yōga works made with Western techniques. Note: you must create a free account to guarantee your access. You’ll receive a notification when all the works go live at 6 p.m., Hong Kong time, on the 20th.

Jenamarie Boots