In these times, when bread-and-butter matters are prioritised above everything else, it is all the more interesting to see how the global arts and cultural community has responded. From Paris Opera’s recent offering of free nightly online shows to the myriad of free virtual concerts, gallery viewings and museum tours online, we are reminded of the arts’ crucial role in society.
British Museum director Hartwig Fischer eloquently said, “Culture gives comfort in times of turmoil, it unites us and makes us understand what it means to be human.”
As the arts express humanity’s soul in all its forms, this development assures those of us staying at home that there is still life and living in this time of social distancing. The expansion of virtual platforms and its emerging possibilities in the realm of arts and culture is a nice bonus.
For some of us, this offers an eye-opening opportunity to “walk” the hallways of a few of the world’s best museums for the first time, get up close to new works and masterpieces alike, and attend an arts festival, all thanks to digital technology. Take your pick of our selection of cultural and art happenings you can enjoy online:
View Rembrandt’s magnificent Night Watch from various angles or a long list of Dutch masters in Amsterdam’s famed Rijksmuseum. Through Google’s Art & Culture platform, you can stroll through its historic hallways floor by floor, passing by the likes of Johannes Cornelisz Verspronck’s Portrait of a Girl Dressed in Blue to Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, just two of the thousands of artworks and artefacts on display.
Enter the Rijksmuseum through Google’s Art & Culture platform here.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
While its halls became famous after “coming alive” in the Hollywood blockbuster movie series of, Night At The Museum, the Washington, DC, museum draws hordes of visitors on its own merit. Now temporarily closed, it is just as well that it has a superb virtual tour of key exhibitions, including the permanent mammals and human origins exhibits. You might want to start at the rotunda, where a mammoth 11-tonne African bull elephant named Henry greets visitors. Make sure to also visit the 45ft North Atlantic right whale named Phoenix, which is suspended in the Sant Ocean Hall.
Access the virtual tours here.
With a permanent collection of some eight million artefacts and works sourced mostly from the era of the British Empire, this London museum is attracting more people to its comprehensive digital library than ever before. Two dedicated “virtual galleries”, in particular, are worth visiting. The Prints and Drawings gallery offers a broad look at artworks ranging from old masters such as Degas, Michelangelo and Goya, to modern and contemporary artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. In Oceania, one can stop by Australia, New Guinea Island, Island Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia and more to view various artefacts from the region and learn more about them.
Explore the virtual galleries here.
The Social Distancing Festival
An event birthed by the pandemic, the Social Distancing Festival aims to do the opposite of its name — bring people together through theatre, dance, music, film and more. It was initiated by Nick Green, a Toronto-based actor who was motivated to do something after a new musical he spent years working on was cancelled on March 13. The goal of the festival is to help artists affected by Covid-19 closures to have a sense of community and engagement; this is mainly done by receiving submissions from affected performing artists around the world (Malaysians included). Selected shows will be live-streamed.
Check out the calendar for daily scheduled shows here.
Oil by Bijutsutecho
The cancellation of major art fairs globally since the start of the year has spurred Japanese art magazine Bijutsutecho to launch an online viewing art gallery featuring about 700 artworks presented by more than 50 Japanese galleries. The easy-to-navigate platform is a great introduction to Japanese contemporary art, though we also spotted a few foreign artists, such as Indonesia’s Eko Nugroho. Do note that the descriptions are written in the local language. Still, it makes for a visual art feast and, if you are so inclined, why not buy a painting or two?
View the works here.
Malaysia’s very own G13 Gallery has launched an online viewing room for its exhibition, Of Dream and Reality. The group exhibition features new works by four aspiring local artists — Arikwibowo Amril, Ho Mei Kei, Syafiq Mohd Nor and Siund Tan — and Thai artist Nitinai Meenun. It presents each artist’s narration of struggles and experiences either encountered personally or observed, largely in relation to the environment and circumstances that form his or her everyday reality.
Explore the group exhibition here
The Berlin Philharmonic may have stopped performing live for now, but the orchestra is offering free concerts via its Digital Concert Hall. One only needs to redeem a voucher code online to receive free access to all concerts and films past and present. Olaf Maninger, principal cellist and also chair of the orchestra’s media board, says of its decision: “We hope that through this initiative, we can give pleasure to as many people as possible with our music. We already miss our public very much and hope that, in this way, we can remain in contact with our audience at least virtually.”
Watch the concerts free with the code "BERLINPHIL" here.
This article first appeared on March 30, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.