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The best online art galleries for on-the-go inspiration

You may not already frequent them, but online art galleries are a great way to help you out of a creative rut. They're useful when you're feeling uninspired yet unable to leave your desk because of deadlines, the weather or simply the guilt of taking some time out. Sometimes, the best medicine for finding yourself in a creative ditch is to take a step back and look at some of the work that has gone before you.

Getting out of a creative block can be as easy as wandering around an art gallery or museum, but what if you don’t have immediate access to the Tate or the Guggenheim? Well, we have scoured the internet to bring you the best online art galleries and museums, where you can tap into some artistic inspiration or even buy some art without leaving your desk. Let’s take a look. 

And if you're more interested in improving your own artistic endeavours, check out our roundup of tutorials on art techniques, or kit yourself out with the essential art supplies you need for painting.

01. Whitney Museum of American Art

online art galleries: Whitney Museum of American Art screenshot

(Image credit: Whitney Museum of American Art)

The Whitney Museum of American Art is one of the best-loved art institutions in New York City, if not in all of the US. Showcasing American artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries, the museum buildings themselves are part of the canon of great American architecture designed by European architects, first residing in a Brutalist building by Marcel Breuer (now the Met Breuer) before moving to a purpose-built edifice by Renzo Piano in the West Village. 

The Whitney has put its entire collection online, so visitors to its website can browse almost 24,000 artworks, ranging from photographs, film, books, paintings, textiles and performance art. Some standout works include The Times Thay Ain’t A Changing, Fast Enough! by Henry Taylor, 2017, which depicts Philando Castille, an African American who was shot and killed by police while in his car. 

02. Google Street Art Project

online art galleries

(Image credit: Google Street Art Project)

The Google Street Art Project provides a platform via Google where you can view some of the world’s most amazing street art (see some of our favourite street art here). Street art occupies a bit of a no man's land between the public realm and the gallery, transforming the urban space into something of an ephemeral outdoor art museum. Street art can offer a window into the culture, history, activism and movements of a society. 

Google Street Art Project has attempted to capture street art in destinations like Buenos Aires and Berlin, as well as showcasing street art collections like that of Widewalls, and documenting street art festivals such as The Millerntor Gallery in Hamburg. Some of the walls, cities and projects that appear on the Street Art Project even come with audio guides that tell you the stories behind the walls. 

03. Art UK

online art galleries: ArtUk screenshot

(Image credit: Art UK)

Art UK is an online platform that brings together artworks from some of the most important cultural institutions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its aim is to democratise art and the public’s access to it, and the team have curated works from over 3,200 venues around Britain that include paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, Adolphe Valette, Renoir, Mary Beale and many others. 

Over 40,000 artists are featured on the site, and visitors can search by artwork, artist or venue. Artists are listed by nationality, and it is interesting to note the wide array of international artists whose work is housed in British institutions. Art UK also has an online shop where you can purchase prints that will add a touch of class and colour to your home. If you need some inspiration, Art UK also has you covered, as it has sorted its artworks into categories like Abstract, Floral Art Prints, Modern Interior Prints and Impressionism.

04. artnet

online art galleries: artnet

(Image credit: artnet)

artnet is the leading online resource for the international art market. Its Price Database is part educational/part commercial resource, in that it catalogues art auction activity for the past 30 years, and is used by buyers and appraisers to make calculated decisions on their purchases. 

It also allows visitors to browse galleries from all over the world, with some of the most current and contemporary artworks held by cutting-edge gallerists on offer through the portal. You can also track and follow auction lots and sales, and bid on works by Bansky, Sol Le Witt and Damien Hirst, to name a few. 

artnet news also brings you up-to-date news on the goings-on in the art world, covering everything from art fairs to trends in the art world. Basically, artnet is the go-to place online for everything you need to know about the contemporary art world, its artists, galleries, works, buyers and collectors. 

05. The Affordable Art Fair

online art gallery

(Image credit: The Affordable Art Fair)

The Affordable Art Fair was originally held in Battersea in London in 1999 with a view to providing an alternative, and cheaper option for purchasing art outside a gallery setting. Prices for works are still deemed 'affordable' – they're capped at around £6,000/€7,500, depending on where the fair is being held. 

The Affordable Art Fair now has iterations all over the world, and its website allows visitors to keep up with fairs in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Hamburg and beyond, as well as the galleries exhibiting at them and the artists on show. The Affordable Art Fair is one of the best places to shop for art online, as prices range from around £50 to £6,000, so there should be something for everyone. It’s also a great place to familiarise yourself with emerging and up and coming artists.

06. Art Basel

online art galleries

(Image credit: Art Basel)

Art Basel started as a small, private fair in Switzerland in 1970, but has gone on to become one of the trendiest and most well-known art fairs in the world. Taking place in Basel, Miami and Hong Kong, Art Basel attracts the glamorous, rich and famous, who come not only to see the art, but to attend parties sponsored by big name brands and catch performances by pop superstars. 

The online catalogue breaks the collections down by fair, so those visiting the site can choose to browse mixed media pieces from Art Basel Miami Beach 2014, for example, or the Discoveries collection from Art Basel Hong Kong 2018. The photos of each artwork are high res and can be zoomed in on to get a sense of the materiality and texture.  

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