Virtual Tour of the World’s Great Art Museum

Would you like to take a tour of the major art museums of the world for free (except for the cost of your internet service)? To discover, in the words of art historian Andre Malraux, a “museum without walls,” from New York to Seoul, Paris to Moscow, Amsterdam to Buenos Aires, where you can explore countless paintings, sculptures, photography, decorative arts, and other media guided by art experts?

For today art museums, from the oldest institutions to 21st century art collections, are increasingly investing their time and creativity in developing websites for virtual visitors like you.

Here is a summary of the variety of art museum websites available to you.

THE GOOGLE ART PROJECT. Since February 2011, the Google Art Project has been providing access online to art museums across the globe, expanding from 17 to more than 180 (and counting) sites. The Art Gallery of South Australia, Istanbul Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection are just a few of the recent additions.

SUPER MUSEUMS. The Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Prado and the State Hermitage Museum represent just a few of the “mega” museums. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds thousands of works of art in a variety of media, spanning centuries of art history, from ancient Egypt to the modern period. Its galleries display European, American, African, Asian, and Oceanic art. In addition, the museum exhibits special collections of costumes, furniture, armor, and musical instruments.

Super museum websites often offer extensive online collections with colorful images and detailed descriptions. Current exhibitions are also highlighted with information on past and upcoming shows. In addition, educational and interactive opportunities are available with special features such as videos, podcasts, blogs, social media, and virtual tours.

Google “list of most visited art museums in the world” to find more super museums.

A MUSEUM OF ONE’S OWN. Are you a fan of Van Gogh? The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam houses the largest collection of his works in the world. Its website is an excellent resource for Van Gogh’s paintings, drawings, and letters as well as providing a chronicle of the major periods of his career. Or you might check out the websites of other museums dedicated to one artist such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Edvard Munch, Auguste Rodin, Marc Chagall, and Norman Rockwell.

SPECIALTY MUSEUMS. Some museums focus mainly on one style or period of art. You might investigate the websites of the three unique museums below.

Impressionist Treasures. The Musee d’Orsay, located in a remodeled Beaux Arts train station in Paris, is THE museum for Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, unrivaled in the number and quality of its works. Its unique website showcases more than 800 masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rodin, and a long list of other leading artists of this period.

The Genius of Italy. Florence was one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance and its Uffizi Gallery holds the most comprehensive collection of that artistic movement (including Botticelli’s famed Birth of Venus and Primavera). And you can browse through almost every gallery on the Google Art Project.

Inside the Acropolis. The new Acropolis Museum (just opened in 2009) displays probably the most beautiful sculptures in Western art; experience them in virtual reality through both the museum website and the Google Art Project.

MASTER COLLECTORS. Discover the best of the great collectors and their visions of art on the websites of the following art museums: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a palace of art built by American heiress Gardner in her hometown of Boston; the J. Paul Getty Museum that introduces you to the priceless collections of the oil billionaire at two sites, the Los Angeles center and the Getty Villa decorated with ancient Greek and Roman art in Malibu; and The Frick Collection, the elegant Fifth Avenue mansion of 19th century mogul, Henry Clay Frick, with galleries of Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other famed European artists.

MUSEUMS, MUSEUMS, AND MORE MUSEUMS. When the first Guggenheim Museum, designed by architectural pioneer Frank Lloyd Wright, finally opened in New York City in 1959, its founder Solomon R. Guggenheim had been dead a decade. Could he have envisioned that four more art museums with his family name would someday be in Venice (1980), Berlin (1997), Bilbao, Spain (1997), and Abu Dhabi (planned completion 2017)? Take a look at the New York, Venice and Bilbao Guggenheim museum websites; each one provides an overview of its collection plus images of the distinctive architecture of its building.