Thursday, February 24, 2011
Experiencing the Sistine Chapel One Pixel at a Time
I went to the Sistine Chapel yesterday. Virtually, of course. A friend on Facebook posted a link with the comment, “Prepare to be humbled.” The virtual tour is provided by the Vatican itself, and in it you can view the room as a whole or zoom in to see details of the paintings. By manipulating your mouse you can see 360 degree views of the four walls, floor, and, of course, the famed ceiling. The experience is heightened by the accompaniment of some beautifully peaceful ecclesiastical music. I have to say, it’s quite profound. In an earlier blog post I had said a virtual tour could never replace the real thing, and I still believe it. That said, instead of looking at the glass as half full, I might look at it the other way and say that experiencing a virtual tour (and in this case it IS an experience) beats the heck out of viewing still photographs any day. Take a quiet moment out of your day and click here to see if you agree with me.
Friday, February 18, 2011
We’re just back from a week in London where we took advantage of the free guided tours offered by our three favorite museums: the National Gallery, the Victoria & Albert, and the British Museum. Of course, we’re very fortunate to have the chance to visit in person. But the wonderful thing about this interconnected world of ours is that, with the click of a mouse, you can plan a virtual visit to whet your appetite for the real thing.
For example, take a look at this page on the National Gallery’s website. Here you can actually view the Gallery’s collection from a number of different viewpoints: by artist, by century, new acquisitions, or highlights. While you’re on the site, take a closer look at the special exhibitions, like the one on Jan Gossaert, a 16th century Flemish painter. Once you get to know his work, you’ll be looking for more.
At the British Museum, we were thrilled to discover their “Eyeopener Tours.” These 35 to 40 minute tours run throughout the day, and focus on four or five objects in one particular gallery; for example, Japan, Ancient Iraq, Romano-British gods and goddesses, and Money, among others. The tours are led by volunteer docents who are amazingly well informed. You can get a taste of this experience in regard to Egypt here. This is only one of many resources on the Museum’s site.
So, armchair art lovers, rejoice—the treasures of London’s museums are as near as your computer.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
The Wild World of YouTube
For fun today I put the words “art gallery” into YouTube’s search engine. The results are quite interesting and range from the absurd to the sublime. They include a silly bit from Monty Python folks (whereby they EAT the art), a video by a group of improv actors who spontaneously turned the subway into an actual gallery opening (with coat check, passed wine, and well-dressed patrons staring at the “art” in deep contemplation), a tour of the Frank Gehry building at the Art Gallery of Toronto, a classic MGM cartoon from 1939 where the paintings and sculptures in a museum come alive at night (move over Harry Potter and ‘A Night at the Museum’!), an overview of a Turner exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, and a fascinating expose about the incredible masterpieces hidden away at the Tehran Museum of Art after the Iranian Revolution. There’s much more to explore if you choose to take a trip down the rabbit hole. Just be warned - a couple of minutes could turn easily into an hour!
Friday, February 11, 2011
Room with a Virtual View
This week, over on our Facebook page, I put up a link to a New York Times article about Google’s Art Project which offers access to “some of the art treasures and interiors of 17 museums in the United States and Europe.” As the article points out, the project is in its infancy, and not without its technical flaws. However, it seems to indicate the direction we (collectively) are going with the ever-encroaching virtual world. I have mixed feelings about this in the same way I have mixed feelings about DVDs. I believe films were meant to be viewed on large screens and as a community, just as I believe a piece of art by a master should be viewed in person, in breathtaking 3-dimensionality, in a place where you can sit alongside other patrons to study, ponder and discuss. That being said, I sure do appreciate popping in a DVD at the end of a long day, particularly when I may not have the extra time or money to get to the theater. So, for the same reason, I can appreciate Google’s Art Project. There is something to be said for giving museum access to a wider, more economically diverse global audience. I only hope the virtual view will remain a tool to be used under certain circumstances and not a replacement for the real thing.
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