Online art galleries may become your cultural saviours in the coming months. Always a great way of helping you out of a creative rut, they're useful for inspiration or for an art fix when you have a super-tight schedule. But at the moment, when the world finds itself increasingly indoors, these galleries will become even more important.
Now that art galleries like the Tate and the Met have closed their doors, we figured a roundup of the best online options would be helpful. We've scoured the internet to bring the best online art galleries and museums, so you can tap into some artistic inspiration or pure entertainment from the comfort of your living room. 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. The National Gallery
The National Gallery in London has a huge collection of 2,400 pieces online, and you can search, browse and view the art on its website. With iconic pieces by Europe's most famous artists, there's a lot of artistic treasure to be found. You can go behind the scenes at the gallery, with articles explaining restoration and conservation projects
Thanks to Google Street View, you can also take virtual tours of 18 rooms. And if you have an Oculus VR headset, you can even take a VR tour of the Sainsbury Wing, which contains over 270 paintings you can get up, close and personal with.
02. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met is the biggest art museum in the USA, and one of the most-visited (usually). You don't have to miss out on its vast collection of global art because the museum has launched a new digital digest under the banner of 'Experience the Met, Anywhere' (with its own hashtag, #MetAnywhere).
There's a variety of sections such as Met Kids (which currently includes a video on how to make a clay pot), Primer (to get you started on key themes and timelines), audio guides, and others. This gives a really broad sampling of the Met's content and could keep you entertained for hours. We particularly enjoyed the 360° video of the Met's stunning architecture.
03. 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 over 25,000 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.
04. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
The world's largest research and museum complex, The Smithsonian, has a pretty awesome virtual tool. You can 'walk' around three floors of the museum, checking out rooms such as the Hall of Fossils, Insect Zoo and Geology.
05. The British Museum
The British Museum has an enormous website, packed full of galleries, collections and educational material in the form of videos, stories and more. Its vast collection of 4,000,000 objects is searchable online, and you can visit each of the museum's rooms through the online gallery, too. You can't take a virtual tour but the pictures and information are more than enough to satisfy an appetite for art.
06. 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.
07. The Louvre
The Louvre has a thematic collection of its works available on its website, but even more exciting, there are online virtual tours of three major exhibitions, too. You can check out Egyptian Antiquities, Remains of the Louvre's moat and Galerie d'Apollon through the website.
08. Google Arts and Culture
09. The Vatican
Since The Vatican is now closed to the public, a host of online virtual tours provide a glimpse into the stunning art collection and architecture housed there. Wander round Raphael's Rooms, or its Chiaramonti Museum, which is just one of the museums featured.
10. 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.
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.
12. 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.
13. 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 whole collection has moved online in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, with online viewing rooms opened to replace its Hong Kong fair. Read more here.