Take a virtual tour through Toronto galleries and museums

Just because everything's closed doesn't mean you can't explore art, entertain kids and stream sold-out events from the past


All the world’s galleries and museums are closed because of COVID-19, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring some visual art into your self-isolation. It’s not the same as walking around a gallery, naturally, but it’s surprisingly effective. And many sites have things for kids to do as well.

Here’s a look at what some Toronto-area galleries are doing. Follow the hashtag #MuseumFromHome to see the range of offerings from around the world. Checking out the Louvre’s “artwork a day” should become part of your daily routine. 

Art Gallery of Ontario

AGO From Home brings the gallery experience to you virtually. Highlights of all its various collections are available to peruse, with the zoom function (no, not that Zoom) allowing you to focus in on fine details of a work. (Also: no worries about a guard asking you to stand back!) There are also interesting essays, including one on how artist David Milne used seclusion and isolation as a means to self-discovery, that are especially fitting for the time. An archive of gallery talks and lectures contains some great content, including features with Peaches, Naomi Klein and (most recently) Desmond Cole

Royal Ontario Museum 

The ROM is promoting that it has 46,699 objects for viewing online – with a handy search engine for whatever you’re looking for (the word “dinosaur,” for instance, brings up 125 results) – and more are being added. The museum gets bonus points because its staff donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline medical workers during the crisis. 

Museum of Contemporary Art

If you haven’t visited MOCA in the year-and-a-half it’s been open, try the site, which includes archives of videos and events. There’s also an exciting series called Shift Key, an online platform that highlights art that works very well in this medium, drawing on video, telecommunications, gaming and other emerging technologies.

The Power Plant

One of the premiere galleries of contemporary art for more than three decades, the Power Plant has a rich archive chronicling past exhibits, with hours of material in its Switch On hub for original writing, video and other content related to the gallery’s programming. Especially cool is its section of virtual tours of past shows, all of which make you feel like you’re walking around the actual space.

Art Museum at the University of Toronto

U of T’s galleries have just introduced the Virtual Art Museum, featuring video recordings of lectures, artist talks and panel discussions, as well as monthly deep dives into individual pieces in their collections. This month’s Virtual Spotlight series focuses on Lorenza Böttner: Requiem For The Norm, a retrospective of the German artist’s paintings, drawings and photographs celebrating the complexity of gender expression, and Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero’s waabidiziiyan doopwining (to see yourself at the table), chosen as the Hart House Centennial Art Commission.

CONTACT Photography Festival 

Normally at this time, we’d be gearing up for May’s Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Because of COVID-19, many artists have agreed to reschedule their exhibits for later in the year. But the festival is using its site to give you background details on some of this year’s offerings, including exhibits by Persijn Broersen & Margit LukácsEvelyn Bencicova, Hannah SomersLucy Alguire and others. More content will be added this month and throughout May.

Aga Khan Museum

If you’ve found it hard to get to this lovely place because of its transit-unfriendly location, you can check it out virtually. The site includes collection tours, artist talks and videos, and you can even print out a PDF for kids to colour in a scene from an artifact from 16th-century Iran. But the coolest way to feel like you’re in the building itself is to take a 3D of its Our Sustainable Future exhibit featuring photographs by 20 newcomer youth in Toronto. There’s also a link to blog entries by the student photographers. 

Storefront Gallery at Arts Etobicoke

Chances are you haven’t visited the Storefront Gallery at Arts Etobicoke, but the west-end venue presents 10 exhibits a year. One of the coolest features of their website is the section on curating your own exhibit, where you can select images from the recent juried show Shifting Environs, give the show a title, write a curatorial statement and submit it to the online gallery. And it’s got a section on arts in isolation, with info about free online art classes and cultural experiences.

@glennsumi

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