Virtual Adventures at New York’s Great Museums

Sandra Bertrand


Let’s face it, sometimes the “next best thing” can be pretty great.  In the case of museum browsing, there’s a lot to be said for exploring the venue’s website in the comfort of one’s home — no schedules, jostling, or other limitations to your own virtual experience.  Recently, I paid a few visits to my favorites and was not only pleasantly surprised, but promised myself to return online even after pandemic restrictions are lifted.


---Metropolitan Museum of Art (

Upon arriving at the homepage, I was greeted by the following headline:  Standing in Solidarity with the Black Community, by Daniel H. Weiss, President and Max Hollein, Director.  It basically was a firm commitment to the museum’s ongoing efforts to diversify, “challenging ideologies and long-ingrained assumptions that have silenced underrepresented and marginalized voices for centuries.”

In the MetCollects section, an 1873 sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux features an abolitionist lament carved into its base: "Why Born Enslaved!" The white marble bust, carved in 1873, depicts a Black woman, pained and struggling against the rope that binds her. 


The Met 360 Degree Project can be found on Online Features:

This award-winning series of six short videos invites viewers around the world to virtually visit the Met's art and architecture in a fresh, immersive way. Created using spherical 360° technology, it allows viewers to explore some of the museum's iconic spaces as never before.

Current exhibitions can be sampled with a rich assortment of pictorial examples:


Sahil: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara

From the first millennium, the western Sahel—a vast region in Africa just south of the Sahara Desert that spans what is today Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—was the birthplace of a succession of influential polities. Fueled by a network of global trade routes extending across the region, the empires of Ghana (300–1200), Mali (1230–1600), Songhay (1464–1591), and Segu (1640–1861) cultivated an enormously rich material culture.



Photography’s Last Century (the Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection)

This exhibition celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last century, with over 60 extraordinary photographs in honor of the Met's 150th anniversary. The exhibition includes masterpieces by the medium's greatest practitioners, including works by Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy; Edward Weston, Walker Evans, and Joseph Cornell; Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman.


Gerhard Richter – Painting After All

Devoted to one of the greatest artists of our time, Gerhard Richter: Painting After All considers Richter's six-decade-long preoccupation with the dual means of representation and abstraction to explore the historical implications of painting. Over 100 works focus on his specific commitment to the medium, as well as his related interests in photography, digital reproduction, and sculpture.


The New British Galleries

The reopening of the Met's British Galleries is one of the highlights of the museum's 150th anniversary—11,000 square feet devoted to British decorative arts, design, and sculpture created between 1500 and 1900. The reimagined suite of 10 galleries provide a fresh perspective on the period, focusing on its bold, entrepreneurial spirit and complex history.


Ethel and Friends: Balcony Bar from Home

Consider experiencing the Balcony Bar from home with the Great Hall Balcony Bar's resident ensemble, ETHEL, one of the most acclaimed string ensembles in the contemporary concert field.  Mix your favorite cocktail, shut your eyes, and you’re almost there.



---MOMA (

A Curator’s Guide to Felix Fénéon – Exhibition Highlights

“Fénéon who?”  I can hear you asking.  Think of that guest at a party whom everyone can’t stop talking about, but nobody knows exactly who he/she is.

With his unusual goatee and meticulous clothing, Fénéon was known as a dandy among his peers. Signac (French, 1863–1935) highlights the young critic’s unconventional appearance and enigmatic personality. A few years before the painting, Fénéon had coined the term “Neo-Impressionism” to describe the technique that Signac, Georges-Pierre Seurat, and their peers were developing, applying color to their canvases using tiny dots of paint. “Take two steps away,” Fénéon wrote, “and all these versicolored spots melt into undulating, luminous masses.”



“Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”
—Donald Judd, “Specific Objects”

For Donald Judd, the space in which the objects exist was as important as the pieces themselves. His works transformed galleries, museums, and private homes (his and others’), and eventually the vast desert landscape of Marfa, Texas.

In March, Judd opened at MoMA in the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center for Special Exhibitions. Installed chronologically, the exhibition is divided into four large spaces. Here, the exhibition’s gallery texts examine the various materials, ideas, and forms that Judd worked with over the course of his career.


Dorothea Lange: Words and Pictures

I give this exhibition video five stars.  Lange’s genius and humanity is currently being presented here as part of the Virtual Views series.” Explore iconic works that redefined how we see America with a live Q&A with curator Sarah Meister and photographer Sally Mann, enjoy poetry and artist’s books inspired by Lange, and unravel the mystery around one of the most famous photographs in the world.



---The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (

Not surprisingly, when you arrive on the site, you are greeted with “A Message to Our Community.”  The foundation is “creating paths that lead to a more inclusive and diverse museum and workplace.”  Nearly a year ago, it launched a Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Initiative.  It’s a high order and we can only hope that they can live up to the founding belief that “art can embrace the spirit and transform human behavior.”

One example on the website of genius at work is a brief artist’s video profile of Simone Leigh.  Her works are monumental in scope and seeing the artist in a hands-on setting with these sculptures leaves little doubt of their timelessness.  From the same home page, take a look as well at the highlighted “Woman on the Bridge,” an iconic painting by Faith Ringgold.


Browse the Collection

Just click on Artists and a comprehensive alphabetical list of artists in the collection will not only take you to a close-up look at the works but in many instances, provide an individual biography.

A few of my favorites include: Joseph Albers – an early Bauhaus professor, in the U.S. he founded the famous Black Mountain College.  His Untitled Laundry on a Clothesline is pure joy.  Max Ernst – a brilliant surrealist and one of Peggy Guggenheim’s favorite paramours, his work may disturb but never disappoints.  The Auto Pope still haunts in its bizarre imagery. Franz Marc’s Yellow Cow will please the youngest visitor. Vasily Kandinsky - his magical shapes, such as Dominant Curve bring abstraction into its full glory.



---The Whitney Museum of American Art (

A giant font-sized message confronts the viewer:  We Stand with Black Communities.  The Whitney in particular, has a special responsibility in response to American art. Consider:  “We have sought to make visible and condemn, through the voices of the artists and art we represent, the injustice, systemic racism, and violence aimed at people of color in our community in our country.”


Dive into Our Collection - With over 25,000 works, the curators have chosen a prodigious amount of eye candy, but it can be overwhelming. 


Better still, from the homepage, cursor down to Explore Our Exhibitions Online, which will give you access to a landmark offering, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art 1925-1945.  Before the pandemic forced the museum’s temporary closing, this exhibition was the buzz of the New York City artworld.  At the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1920, a radical cultural transformation occurred.  Three muralist giants, Jose Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siquieros spent significant time in the United States and inspired many of our own developing artists, chief among them Jackson Pollock.  Please look at the arresting video of this exhibit and you are sure to understand what all the excitement is about.


Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendalist (1881-1961) is another show on hold that deserves to be mentioned.  A visionary symbolist who used curvilinear and biomorphic forms to elucidate a spiritual reality in her works, she will undoubtedly be compared to Hilda Af-Klimt, the early Swediish spiritualist whose works set the artworld on fire last year in its Guggenheim retrospective. 

If your appetite for art adventures is still not sated, you may want to explore the offerings in Whitney from Home.  You can check out Whitney Screens every Friday to see the best of video works from emerging artists or sign up for weekly online talks by the Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow.  Artmaking from Home will offer new and creative ways to bring design concepts to you. 

There is so much more to cull from these major art institutions. I encourage you to go fishing online. The waters are deep with promise and possibilities.



Author Bio:

Sandra Bertrand is Highbrow Magazine’s chief art critic.


For Highbrow Magazine

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Photos courtesy of the Met, MoMA, the Guggenheim, and Whitney museums
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