With stay-at-home orders across the globe, social distance and online everything has become our new norm. We workout through tutorial apps; we FaceTime rather than take lunch meetings. The world at large has been compressed—and in many ways enlarged, too—through our digital screens. The art set has heeded this approach, beginning with Art Basel Hong Kong’s decision to host this year’s art fair virtually last month—a concept that has been echoed by museums and galleries around the world. Before COVID-19, many of these art groups had already began to increase their online presence for broader global access, but now, with the 24-7 corona news cycle, these digital art approaches have become a point of positivity. Their virtual presence demonstrates art’s ability to elevate and transport us—particularly in times such as the present, when we need it most.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
As museum doors have temporarily closed, many venues are hosting online exhibits to bring their collections directly to art audiences. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) offers 360-degree virtual tours of museum galleries, as well as artist and curator video talks on the collections and how works have transformed their artistic views. The museum is also hosting the digital premiere of the documentary Gerhard Richter Painting, which was featured in the Met Breuer exhibition, Gerhard Richter: Painting After All.
Museum of Modern Art
Across town, at the city’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), online exhibitions are accessible for the entirety of the museum’s history—from its founding in 1929 through the present day. Cultural views from a range of art references come together in MoMA’s Magazine platform, which highlights new artists each week, such as Allan McCollum and Louise Lawler. “Now more than ever, people are hungry for a sense of connection and experience of art and creativity at home,” MoMA’s Leah Dickerman tells CR. “That’s the thing about art, it helps us process our experiences with the world. We are all learning together how to create a sense of virtual community and realize the global potential that the digital ecosystem has.”
Whitney Museum of American Art
At the Whitney Museum of American Art, more than a decade of exhibits are on view online, complemented by curators and artists discussing works from museum exhibitions Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945 and Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again. “While we await the future and hope for everyone’s safety and health, we’ve taken the opportunity to put forward compelling content and educational resources that the museum develops for all exhibitions and for its collection,” says the museum’s Director of Curatorial Initiatives David Breslin. “We’re hoping our digital platforms can be a gathering place—for enrichment, solace, and distraction—until we can gather together again.”
On the West coast, when mandatory closures temporarily shuttered LA’s Getty Center exhibition, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, the museum responded by continuing the show virtually in a new video series. “Art is inspiration, comfort, and a break from other online consumption,” Lisa Lapin of the J. Paul Getty Trust tells CR. “Art is a bond that helps connect people across distance and culture because it is something we all have in common.”
Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert Museum
Across the pond, London’s museums have also devised unique, multimedia programming for art enthusiasts. The Tate Modern hosts artist conversations with creative greats such as David Hockey and Njideka Akunyili Crosby discussing their artwork and inspirations. From the city’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fashion & Textiles series presents behind-the-scenes footage of exhibitions—and fashionphiles have a front row view of designer catwalks and standout objects of style from museum collections.
David Zwirner Gallery
Art galleries too have followed suit, designing online programs that reflect their offerings. David Zwirner’s viewing rooms offer a range of artists’ works, from the selections of New York galleries and artists shown in Platform: New York to diverse talents such as James Welling and Yun Hyong-keun. “The online viewing room and digital space are more important than ever, as these are the main channels through which the gallery can continue to present cultural programming and connect with our global audience,” says David Zwirner’s Elena Soboleva.
Recently, Sean Kelly New York live-streamed Julian Charrière’s film, Towards No Earthly Pole to keep viewers connected to their offerings. “We were able to reach a very large group of people and build a genuine art community by live-streaming an exhibition film,” Kelly tells CR. “What we produced was real access to real artwork that people were truly moved by—it was not just a virtual experience; it was a real experience. This is a moment for galleries to provide meaningful content because art is affirming, uplifting, and even life-changing.”
While Gladstone Gallery devised an Instagram takeover by artists Banks Violette and Amy Sillman, as well as Reaching Out conversations with artists Sarah Lucas and Anicka Yi. “We felt an urgency to figure out how to allow our artists to communicate during this uncertain moment,” shares the gallerist Gladstone. “We wanted to find some other outlets for our gallery artists to think creatively about staying connected to the community through their own thoughts and work.”
Gagosian has just unveiled a new series Artist Spotlight, which focuses on artists whose exhibitions were curtailed, postponed, or cancelled due to the pandemic, and unveils a new work from each of their studios. Kicking off with Sarah Sze, featured artists will also include the likes of Roe Ethridge, Katharina Grosse, Urs Fischer, and Damien Hirst. “It is important at this moment to allow our artists to share their stories as directly as possible with their audiences, as a way of bringing people together and sharing cultural connections—insights into artistic practice and process as well as inspirations,” says Gagosian’s Sam Orlofsky.
Hauser & Wirth
At Hauser & Wirth, online exhibitions of drawings by Louise Bourgeois and George Condo are complemented by short films from artists Rita Ackermann and Zhang Enli. Also shown is the digital premiere of PHYLLIDA, a documentary about sculptor Phyllida Barlow. “We are trying to connect ourselves and our artists to our global audience in a very human way emphasizing daily life and in-the-moment responses—whether that’s Guillermo Kuitca showing how he dances in his studio to relieve stress and get a work-out; or Luchita Hurtado offering insight into her perspective as a woman who has seen it all in her 99 years,” Marc Payot of Hauser & Wirth tells CR. “We want to share things that reinforce the fact we’re all in this together.”
The present offers an opportunity to explore art’s possibilities from virtual destinations such as Artsy. This online platform was created more than a decade ago for the broader discovery of fine art. “Artsy was founded to provide universal access to all the world’s art,” says Artsy’s Mike Steib. “Our mission has always been to expand the art market to support more art and artists in the world, but with the physical art world closed for the foreseeable future, we are more committed to supporting the industry than ever before.”
GMO Gallery began as an artist-run platform before COVID-19 with the mission of digitally redesigning the white cube. The online gallery is an interactive 3D space that shows a hybrid of emerging and established creatives from across the globe. “It is our responsibility as artists and gallery directors to adapt and reinvent the ways in which we can support our global community,” gallery director Sean Kennedy shares with CR. “We strive to inspire others with our unconventional platform and hope to eventually make the future art world more inclusive.”
Tribeca Film Festival
Even the legendary Tribeca Film Festival has responded to the pandemic by shifting select programming online. The Tribeca Film Festival Art Awards presented by Chanel will be hosted virtually to honor filmmakers who unify community and celebrate humanity. Artworks will be awarded from notable creatives including Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, Pat Steir, and Gus Van Sant. “There is a wonderful dialogue between film, painting, sculpture, and drawing. All of these creators are storytellers—whether they are telling their own stories or larger, more political stories—and that is reflected in whatever work they are making,” curator Vito Schnabel tells CR. “Great accessible content is what we all need right now, and this platform allows us to take what we find interesting and inspiring, and share it with many other people.”
In this time, digital art access has become much more than collected images for scrolling or podcasts for hearing art perspectives. It amounts to something far greater than a distraction from an unfavorable news cycle. Art fulfills its best potential when it creatively inspires and reveals worldly possibilities. In this occasion, art makes us see that we are all part of something larger together. It affirms a future beyond the present and our collective pause. Art adeptly reminds us of how much lies ahead in infinite moments yet to be realized.
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