With our much-loved museums and galleries around the world temporarily closing their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak, online art galleries have become the cultural saviors. Allowing you to step inside and explore their finest collections of paintings, ceramics, drawings, sculptures, installations, and new artworks – focus on minute detail, they let you experience their splendor in virtual reality from the comfort of your home. Offering various platforms, ranging from interactive, 360-degree videos, complete ‘walk-around’ tours along with voiceover descriptions to slideshows with great graphics and zoomable photos of the world’s greatest artworks. Interestingly, many online art galleries allow you to explore their greatest collections without the crowds and get closer to art than you possibly could do in real life.

We have rounded up the ten finest online art galleries for you, so, take a break from the news, and start your art adventure from the comfort of your living room.

  • The National Gallery, London

Having a huge collection of more than 2,500 works available online on its website, the National Gallery gives you the opportunity of endless browsing of its complete collection from anywhere. With iconic pieces dating from the 13th century to the 20th century created by Europe's most famous artists, there’s a lot of artistic treasure for you to indulge into. You can not only zoom in to view the extraordinary details, read interpretation, and explore key facts about each painting but also go behind the scenes, with several articles available explaining their restoration and conservation projects. If you are looking to buy paintings online, you can easily place the order using the same platform.

With Google Street View, you can also undertake high-quality virtual tours of the gallery’s 18 rooms including works of Titan, Veronese. Teaming up with Oculus, the gallery also gives you the opportunity, using a VR headset, to immerse (even get close and personal) in the world’s greatest collections of early Italian and Renaissance paintings from 1200 to 1500 housed in the Sainsbury Wing.

  • The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

One of the world’s largest and most influential museums of modern art, MoMA has all its digital bases covered. With an evolving, and rich collection of more than 86,000 artworks online, the museum invites art lovers to browse pieces that are currently displayed, recently added to their collection, and also let you explore the catalogue of artists featured in their exhibitions. The museum also lets you enjoy 360 virtual tours of its several galleries including the Arms and Armour, Great Hall, the Temple of Dendur.

Utilizing a combination of video, high-resolution images of their artworks and didactics, audio guides providing a comprehensive account of artists for each exhibition, and interviews with leading curators and artists, MoMA has managed to amplify the experience of their virtual tours.

  • Tate Modern, London

If you could not visit the marvelous exhibitions of Tate before the lockdown, don’t despair. You can still explore its vast art collection crisply in the digitized form.

Including the works of more than 4,000 artists ranging from the emotive paintings of Lubaina Himid to the early 20th-century creations of Polish printmaker Jankel Adler, the expansive digital collection of Tate Modern gives you the chance to get up-close and personal, and also buy paintings online. The supplementary video guides where the curators take you around the exhibitions providing insights about the artists and their creations are certainly enough to keep the creative spirit alive.

  •  Guggenheim Museum, New York

In these times, you can browse the ever expanding and splendid collection of Guggenheim Museum — Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary paintings, sculptures and also attend their exhibitions from the comfort of their homes. You can even explore the museum’s magnificent architecture — winding hallways, geometric structures and spiral staircase right through the interactive tours. The interactive audio guide gives you the opportunity to immerse in its iconic building right from your living room.

If you plan to take the museum’s virtual tour, don’t forget to play around with the filtering tools of Google Street View. Available under the tab ‘Organise by’, it lets you view any artwork in your desired color palette and time period.

  • The British Museum, London

Owing to the rapidly-growing demand for digital content, like all other online art galleries, British Museum has also revamped its online collection allowing the visitors to easily access nearly 4.5 million masterpieces from more than 2 million records including recent additions of Damien Hirst portraits and a lost Rossetti.

What is most fascinating about this digital exploration of the British Museum is the cutting-edge zoom technology and other range of digital devices that enable you to comprehend the objects in unprecedented detail and examine the high-definition up-close. Not only this, the 360-degree view of the virtual tour offered lets you examine each and every one of the 3,212 different panes of glass placed in the domed ceiling of the Museum’s Great Court. It further takes you beyond this magnificent space to the ancient wonders including Rosetta Stone and the famous Egyptian mummies. The museum also provides podcasts, interactive infographic platform (History Connected) and audio tours (by curators) to help you provide better insight into their collections, along a timeline.

  • Whitney Museum of American Art, Manhattan

One of the best-loved art institutions in the city of New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art has also put its entire collection online including the exhibitions. Showcasing American artworks from the 20th and contemporary period, the museum lets you explore over 25,000 artworks, ranging from paintings, photographs, books, paintings, textiles, films, and performance art.

In case you are exploring online art galleries for exceptional contemporary works, the Whitney Museum of American Art is certainly not to be missed. Make sure you check out its standout works including Henry Taylor’s The Times Thay Ain’t A Changing, Fast Enough! (2017) which depicts the tragic death of  African American artist Philando Castille, and the never-ending discrimination the community struggles through.

  • The Louvre, Paris

The world’s largest museum, The Louvre, has also gone all digital with its thematic art collection — 35,000 paintings, Egyptian Antiquities, Remains of the Louvre's moat, sculptures, and high vaulted ceilings of Galerie d'Apollon, easily available on its website. Not only this, but you can also indulge in the museum’s three major exhibitions from your home.

You can visit all the rooms and galleries of this greatest art institution by undertaking a virtual tour, and also admire the palace architecture at the same time enjoy the breath-taking views. The experience would certainly refresh your exhausted imaginations or feed your inspiration.

  • The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C

The world's largest natural history research and museum complex, The Smithsonian, also offers awesome narrated virtual tours of the natural world, allowing visitors to take self-guided tours of select collections as well as past exhibits and research areas of the museum conveniently from their laptops or mobiles.

Apart from exploring the 126 million artifacts, you can also walk around three floors of the Smithsonian National Museum, and check out the exhibits room-by-room such as the Hall of Fossils, Insect Zoo and Geology.

  • MASP, São Paulo, Brazil

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo houses one of the most expansive historical collections online spanning from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Easily available to view from its virtual gallery platform, the paintings usually appear suspended loosely in the air around the open-plan space, on glass panels making the experience quite enthralling for the viewers.

Even the gorgeous building structure of glass and red-beam, built in 1968, can be easily explored via Google Street View and certainly worth investing your time.

  •  Vatican Museums, Rome

The immense collection of the Vatican museum is also a click away now. Also, its creatively rich architectural sites including the soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate murals, lavishly decorated halls, and astonishing tapestries are available to be explored digitally.

The virtual tour of the museum lets you step directly into Raphael’s Rooms, Sistine Chapel, New Wing, Plio Clementiono museum and more. While exploring the seven spaces in virtual reality, don’t forget to gawp at a series of 360-degree high-definition images of the entire museum. The supplementary narration makes the experience even better.

  • The National Women’s History Museum, Virginia

Dedicated to women's history, the National Women’s History Museum located in Alexandria, Virginia, attempts to honor — research, collect and exhibit the women’s distinctive contributions in the United States. In these times of coronavirus outbreak, the museum is delivering its mission through well-curated online exhibits as well as oral histories.

Wrap Up

With the world coming to almost a standstill in these distressed times, the host of virtual experiences of the world’s greatest museums and online art galleries can help many art aficionados to tap into some artistic inspiration or indulge in pure entertainment from their homes.

Undoubtedly, it’s impossible to beat the experience of seeing a seminal piece of art or any significant historical artifact in-person with your own two eyes, spending a lifetime traveling across the globe in search of all of them is an easy possibility for any art lover. Fortunately, digital technology has made it easy, even, particularly in these difficult times when everything is locked out, to immerse in the finest works and visit some of the world’s greatest museums from the comfort of your own home.