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Socially Distanced Galleries to Visit from Home

Art and technology have always gone hand-in-hand, so it comes as no surprise that technology is the art world’s saving grace.

By Tyler Faurot

The era of social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that galleries and art showcases aren’t able to open their doors to the public, at least not in the traditional sense. In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, shelter-in-place mandates and social distance guidelines have instructed enclosed space to not be open to the public. With this option off the table, many physical spaces for the arts are in a position to innovate and reimagine the experiences they offer to their guests.

As an alternative, some spaces have uploaded their collections to the web, while others have gone a step further to offer unique experiences in the virtual realm. Here are a few art galleries local to San Diego as well as across the globe that offer digital and virtual options during the social distance era:

San Diego Galleries

The San Diego Museum of Art, located in the heart of the iconic Balboa Park, holds over 20,000 art pieces from around the globe, dating from ancient to contemporary. These artworks are not just available to browse on the museum’s online catalogue, but the website also offers a virtual 3-D tour of their space.

First floor exhibitions from the SDMA’s virtual tour. Photo courtesy of

The museum also offers free staff-guided online tours a few times a month. Visitors can RSVP for these tours right on the museum’s website.

Across town, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is offering a similar online experience through MCASD: Digital. Debuted just this past summer, MCASD: Digital features online exhibitions that include both images of the art pieces as well as extended texts and artist information, the same as you would find at an in-person exhibit.

Screen captures of MCASD: Digital’s online Chicano Art Exhibit

Like the SDMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art also allows online visitors to browse their vibrant catalogue of collections. They also host public conversations online with staff and featured artists for a chance to immerse oneself even further in the art.

Across the Globe

On the other side of the country, the MET in New York partnered with Verizon Wireless to bring a virtual mobile tour of their spaces and galleries. Launched in January, The Met Unframed allows guests to experience a 3-D tour of the spaces using just their smartphones.

Screen capture of a puzzle from Met Unframed

In this virtual experience, guests can interact with the art in a series of puzzles that highlight important details and messages of the paintings and installations. When users complete a puzzle, the app lets them virtually install the piece in their own home using augmented reality (AR) technology, cleverly nicknamed “AR-t.”

A virtual installation of an egyptian statuette in a user’s home. Photo courtesy of ArtNet.

Across the pond in Amsterdam, The Van Gogh Museum, featuring the world’s largest collection of the artist’s work, has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to allow guests to traverse the museum in a google maps-style virtual tour. Visitors can click through the floors and get up close and personal with hundreds of Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings and letters.

Van Gogh’s famous Wheatfield with Crows in the Van Gogh Museum. Photo from Google Arts & Culture

We still have yet to see what other alternatives the world of art will turn to in the coming months as we navigate this pandemic. The future of art exhibition technology has many more possibilities to explore, but the innovations that have come out are already broadening the horizons for accessibility.

In the meantime, have fun exploring these sites and engaging with thousands of installations from the comfort of your own home!

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