Just because the major art shows this year have unfortunately been cancelled, it doesn’t mean Hongkongers have to forego Arts Month completely. Technological advancements have made it so that we can view and experience art right from the comfort of our own couches. We will concede that the online curatorial practice was initially more of a way to sell pieces to overseas collectors, but this has since evolved into yet another way for viewers to experience and immerse themselves into art pieces. Here are some of the most interesting online art galleries and museum collections you should spend time getting lost in.
Much of Hong Kong Arts Month had to be cancelled this year, so Art Basel has tried to make it up to us disappointed art lovers by launching their Online Viewing Rooms. Its initial concept has been in the pipeline for a while now as an accompaniment to the show rather than a replacement of the physical experience, but in light of the current situation, they have debuted it earlier and adapted the platform to allow exhibitors to present works as intended for Art Basel Hong Kong 2020.
Search by galleries, artists, or medium to browse through thousands of works—with some additional curations not presented at the fair—and directly contact galleries with inquiries through the Online Viewing Rooms. Each gallery will be able to present up to ten works at a time, and swap them out for new works throughout the duration of the exhibition. Running parallel to the fair’s originally intended dates, the Art Basel showrooms will begin with VIP previews from 18 to 20 March, followed by several days of public access from 20 to 25 March.
Big-name contemporary art gallery Gagosian has operated an online viewing room since 2017. Instead of just discussing aesthetic values, stylistic choices, and artistic history—as is mostly the case with presenting art online—Gagosian has also provided information about the artist’s performance in the market so potential buyers can also evaluate art pieces as potential investments without referring to external data organisations.
Last March, the gallery set a new world record for Albert Oehlen paintings: an untitled Oehlen abstract was sold just three hours after it was unveiled online as the sole piece in the online viewing room. The final transacted price was not announced, but the piece was at an asking price of US$6 million. As reported by ARTnews, Sam Orlofsky, a Gagosian director behind the viewing room initiative, says that it reduces a certain opacity often associated with the art market and can “bridge the greatest gap between [galleries] and potential buyers.”
Gagosian has just concluded their latest viewing room on Frieze Los Angeles, featuring works by Chris Burden, David Reed, Tatiana Trouvé, and Alex Israel with Breat Easton Ellis. It remains to be seen whether the gallery will be opening the platform again this month, as they have done in previous years right before the Art Basel show.
Click here to see the Gagosian Online Viewing Room.
Similar to Gagosian, mega-gallery David Zwirner has also been presenting exhibitions in their online space since 2017. This cyber exhibition ground is where visitors can explore works from curated, online-exclusive exhibitions by the gallery’s artists and special collaborators.
Zwirner runs five physical galleries across the globe, and consider the online gallery their sixth space, especially servicing art lovers who cannot make it to the fairs and major art shows in person. Last year, they sold a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin sculpture for US$1.8 million—the highest price paid for any artwork in their online platform at that point. At the time of publishing, David Zwirner is showing two exhibitions: Pathological Color by James Welling, and Yun Hyong-kuen by the eponymous artist.
Click here to see the David Zwirner Viewing Room.
Hong Kong-based Art Being is an online platform that places the spotlight on rising and established local artists. It’s no secret that the market for art has always been monopolised by a handful of key players. Famous galleries and auction houses, while worthwhile institutions in their own right, present barriers which entry-level artists find difficult to cross.
This is why smaller, locally focused platforms such as Art Being are so invaluable to the development of any art scene. Instead of treating art as a hyper-luxurious commodity, it is made accessible to anyone willing to look for it, and so people who have never had access before can be inspired as well.
Art Being offers a range of artworks, from painting and sculpture to photography and even jewellery. The traditional wall that the gallery model presents separating the artist and the collector is broken down, and Art Being is more than happy to connect interested parties directly to the artist to establish a dialogue.
Click here to view works on Art Being.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum system, with 19 museums, nine research centres, libraries, and archives, and the National Zoo under its banners. For the first time ever, the Smithsonian has uploaded more than 2.8 million images from their 155-million-strong collection of artefacts online.
The new Smithsonian Open Access allows users to peruse the museum system’s extensive collection at their own leisure. Aside from static images, there are also scans that can be experienced in 3D with a VR headset, and access to more than a century’s worth of data.
And the best part? These images are all in the public domain; under a Creative Commons Zero license, the public is free to use the images of these treasures however they wish. Want to establish a mood board for each month of the year? Whyever not? Need creative inspiration for an art project? Sure. Want to just make memes to send in your chaotic group chat? Go for it.
The Smithsonian has plans to upload another 200,000 images this year, and are continuing efforts to digitise the rest of its collection. The fact that they are not retaining copyrights to their high-quality images is revolutionary. Everybody, raise a glass!
Click here to view the Smithsonian Open Access.
We all know that Paris is home to hundreds and thousands of artistic treasures, but sadly not everyone has the money (or annual leave days!) to spare for a trip over. Lucky for us poor sods, Paris Musées, the public institution that incorporates the French capital’s 14 museums, has made it much easier for people to view its masterpieces.
They have recently uploaded 324,611 works of art to their dedicated website; what’s more, more than 150,000 of these are in the public domain, available to use in HD quality. Aside from the catalogue of artefacts, there are also specially curated virtual exhibitions to view. If you’ve ever wanted to zoom right into a Monet or a Cézanne for closer inspection, this is your chance.
Click here to view the Paris Musées Collections.
We really have technological advancements and artistic generosity to thank for so much fantastic creative content being made available to us. Similar to the Smithsonian, the Biodiversity Heritage Library has uploaded more than 150,000 images of biological sketches online, all in the public domain.
These images are from journals, libraries, and millions of pages of research material, some even dating back to the 15th century. Natural history literature and archives are only available in a handful of specialised libraries worldwide, so for the world’s largest open-access digital library for biodiversity to make its content public is a huge deal.
Even if you’re not into it for scientific research, it’s worth checking out just for the amazing old drawings of flora and fauna. You can even read books from Charles Darwin’s personal library, scanned and uploaded in full detail.
New York City’s finest and largest art museum houses over 2 million paintings, sculptures, artefacts, and more, presenting over 5,000 years of art from across the globe for everyone to experience and enjoy. That’s not too shabby for a place that owned not a single piece of art when it was founded in 1870. Through the combined efforts of generations of curators, researchers, and collectors, the Met has grown to include works of fine art from the first cities of the ancient world to the works of our time, and now you can view them online through The Met Collection. From Hokusai and Bruegel to Vermeer and Turner, the staggering collection will have your head spinning in delight and encourage you to spend a full weekend going on a virtual art tour. In addition, The Met also partners with the Google Cultural Institute to make even more artwork available for view, along with dedicated “stories” to provide a deep-dive and professional analysis into important and timeless pieces of art.
Founded by American businessman and art collector Solomon R. Guggenheim, the eponymous museum network is the permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art. The museum’s repertoire has grown over eight decades and is founded upon several important private collections, some of which can now be viewed online through the Guggenheim’s online collection as high-resolution digital reproductions. Stunning works from Chagall, Delauney, Gabo, and Kandinsky are represented in the Founding Collection alone, and more avant-garde pieces can be found in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Click here to view the Guggenheim’s online collection.