Fine Art: Learn, Look, and Buy
The list of topics in fine art is as long as the line to see the Mona Lisa. And while at the Louvre you have no choice but to wait, on the Web, you can explore at your own pace, whether you're a beginner or an expert. If you want to learn about art and its history, explore online museums, research galleries, read art magazines, or buy and sell artwork, the Internet has all the resources you need.
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Starved for art but short on time? Although certainly no substitute for the real thing, you can virtually “visit” almost any museum from the comfort of your own home. Not only will you avoid traffic, crowds, and the price of admission, you’ll also be privy to images that are accompanied by valuable resources and educational material. In most cases, you can search for artists, time periods, movements, or specific works. Depending on the site, you can view entire special exhibits or take audio tours.
You might also benefit from a “trip” to an online-only museum. There are some sites constructed as museums that are not affiliated with any live venue but have vast selections of easily searchable artwork. These destinations make it easy to find exactly what you're looking for, and often allow you to print or use images, and find links for further research.
- If you intend to visit a particular museum physically, you can usually find links on the museum’s homepage that will help you plan your real-world visit. Whether you're getting a preview of special exhibitions, buying tickets in advance, or just looking up hours and directions, a preliminary trip to a museum's site can save you time and enhance your trip.
- Some museum exhibits, especially those that contain additional audio or video content, may require you to download a plug-in like Real Player. Simply follow the site’s instructions.
- Almost every museum has a Web site. The ones featured in this guide were selected for their excellent online galleries, but if you don’t find a museum you’re looking for, search with one of the museum directories.
For American museums …
The Guggenheim Museum
, another New York museum devoted to modern art, is famous for the expansive spirals of the Frank Lloyd Wright building it calls home. But if you can't manage a visit, you can still view pictures of the building
, and many of the pieces in the collection online
. You can search the whole online gallery or look through directories divided by categories such as artist, date, movement and medium.
The Getty Museum
in Los Angeles is dedicated to presenting European drawing, painting, and sculpture in addition to American and European photography. In the “Explore Art” section of the museum’s Web site, you can search by artist, type of art, or subject of a painting. Unfortunately, only small thumbnails are available, but you can still read and learn about each piece.
For European museums …
, famous home to works such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, is located in Paris, but many of its great works can be viewed from your home. Visit the department overview page
to search for artwork. Be warned that the print is tiny and a bit hard to read, but if you're patient you’ll enjoy images of and commentary on some of the world's most famous art.
The British Museum
in London, committed to a comprehensive representation of ancient and modern culture through art, is free to visitors but if you can still can't get there, check out the collection online
. You can search through images in a particular collection or by key word. Each image has a description and explanation, making the site a useful education source.
The State Hermitage Museum
occupies six buildings on the River Neva in St. Petersburg, Russia, but you can view some of the collection right from your home by visiting the Virtual Exhibitions
. You can browse the collection or check out paintings grouped together by designated themes. The section titled "The Exhibit" analyzes a few works.
posts a selection of the best works at El Prado Museum in Madrid. Select an artist and view one or more works in the museum’s collection. The Web site is a little ugly and not complete, but it will provide images you might not see otherwise. The museum has its own site
as well, although the collection is not available online.
For museum directories ...
The Saatchi Gallery
's site provides the "Museums Around the World
" page, which lists names and links for most any world museum you'd want to visit or explore online. If you don't find what you're looking for on the above list, chances are it's on The Saatchi Gallery site. And while you're there, you can explore the Gallery itself, which promotes contemporary art by established and new artists.
, also featured in the "Find Art Galleries" section of this guide, provides links to worldwide museums and lets you search by continent. While most of the museums you've heard of are probably listed above, you might not know that Japan has about a dozen museums with collections available online. The site provides a real chance to discover artwork you might not find elsewhere.
is not as easy to use as the Saatchi or Artcyclopedia sites, but it covers less famous museums in small American towns. It's a good site if you know exactly what you want, whether it's a specific museum or a type of art. Choose a movement or medium, then sort through the alphabetized list of museums.
For online-only museums ...
The Web Gallery of Art
is a virtual museum and database of European painting and sculpture from the 12th to mid-19th centuries. You can search for artists alphabetically and even send an e-postcard of any image you find.
The 24 Hour Museum
has a continually updated section on current museum and gallery exhibitions that are available online. The Web site itself, a "virtual museum," is based in the United Kingdom, but the online exhibits are drawn from all over the world (and can be viewed from anywhere in the world, too).
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