Westerlund 2 - from the Hubble telescope (NASA/ESA), all images are open to the public to browse.

    Westerlund 2 - from the Hubble telescope (ESA/Hubble), all images are open to the public to browse.

    The best exhibitions and concerts to experience online

    18 March 2020

    If you’re entering a period of self-isolation, or indeed are already in one, you are not as cut off as you might first think. While everyone is building their watch lists for Netflix, or like a friend of mine, ordering a new X-Box because he’s now ‘working from home’, there are also plenty of ways to broaden your mind and experience culture from your living room. Google has partnered up with some of the world’s greatest Galleries and Museums to offer online exhibitions, Orchestras across the globe are launching virtual concerts, and musicians are livestreaming their performances on YouTube. Even if from their own homes.

    I expect many will scramble to get online or livestreaming in the coming weeks, so the list below will probably grow. In the meantime, here’s where you can get your cultural fix all from the comfort of your computer screen.

    Classical Music

    Composer Sir Simon Rattle, who features in the The Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall (Getty)

    The Berliner Philharmoniker have opened their ‘Digital Concert Hall’ where you can access six decades worth of archive concerts, documentaries and artist portraits all in HD, and currently, all for free. Usually you can stream live concerts too, but unless every musician in the orchestra is seated one metre away from each other (which would do interesting things for the acoustics), I doubt you’ll be getting a live stream for some time. I used to play the drums for my school orchestra and know from personal experience that spittle from the woodwind instruments can fly quite far. Hazardous at the best of times.


     If you don’t happen to live next to an opera singer in Italy who, like quite a number now, have decided to serenade their neighbours with nightly performances, the Metropolitan Opera have just launched ‘Nightly Met Opera Streams’  – where they stream ‘encore’ footage from performances over the last decade on the homepage of their website every evening. While not technically ‘live’, it is free. And although the time difference would make staying up a little extreme, the recordings will be available for up to 20 hours after, ensuring that everyone, no matter what time zone, can see them. The schedule is worth checking out on their website.


    James Blunt, who is broadcasting a gig online, with his pal Ed Sheeran (Getty)

    James Blunt, who is broadcasting a gig online, with his pal Ed Sheeran (Getty)

    Some artists like James Blunt and Yungblud are choosing to live stream their shows online, others aren’t so keen on performing without an audience. It’s worth checking with your favourite artists and seeing where they stand.

    Museums & Galleries

    Google Arts & Culture, has partnered with over 500 museums and galleries worldwide to bring a mixed array of virtual tours and online exhibitions – all for free. From Georgia O’Keefe to Gustav Klimt, Bauhaus to Banksy and the rocket of Apollo 11 to the Palaeolithic Chauvet Cave, whatever your personal tastes, there will be something for you – and for all the parents running out of ideas out there, for the kids too.

    I’ve picked a few below that are worth a look.

    The V&A

    The V&A, which never fails to meet expectations, has 11 (mostly fashion centred) exhibits you can explore online, including ‘Indian Textiles: Nature & Making’, ‘The Politics of Fashion’ that looks at styles in 18th century British court, and ‘Influence and Longevity’ which explores the detail and symbolism of clothes of the Emperors Court in China. They’re all insightful, easy to navigate, and get you much closer to the clothes and art than you would be allowed to in real life.


    The magnificent starburst galaxy Messier 82

    The magnificent starburst galaxy Messier 82 (ESA/Hubble)

    If you feel like you want to escape Planet Earth right now, NASA have 35 online exhibitions or ‘stories’ you can read and watch. Including ‘Illuminating the invisible: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio’ with visualisations of Space and the Planets that look like pieces of abstract art, an image tour from the ‘The Hubble Space Telescope’ which will make you question if aliens truly do exist, and plenty on the Apollo 11 preparations and subsequent mission to the moon.

    The British Library

    The British Library have ten virtual tours from their Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition. Including, ‘Care of Magical Creatures’, ‘Herbology’, ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’ and ‘Potions’. With centuries old texts on mermaids, werewolves and other ancient mythological creatures intertwined with Harry Potter quotes and characters, each ‘lesson’ further immerses you in a world of wizardry, that by the end, will have you fluent in the history of magic and myth.

    Freer/Sackler Galleries: Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art

     Although as of writing this, the Olympics in Japan is scheduled to still go on, with each day and new virus case, it seems increasingly unlikely. You can still explore some of Japan’s creative culture with a number of Japanese museums and galleries available to peruse on the arts and culture page. However, I’ve picked out the Freer & Sackler Galleries introductory exhibition ‘Waves of Matsushima’, on perhaps one of the most influential and least well known Japanese artists, Tawaraya Sotatsu. Whom many great Japanese artists that came after, owe a debt. If you want to explore traditional Japanese art, this is a good place to start.

    Google Art Camera

    Detail from the ceiling of the Paris Opera (as seen on The Art Camera)

    Detail from the ceiling of the Paris Opera (as seen on Google Art Camera)

     Google also have a helpful section called the Art camera, where you can ‘zoom’ in on pieces by great artists like Rembrandt and Frida Kahlo, to see the details at the back of paintings you might of missed, which is likely if you’d been walking round a museum for an hour and your legs were getting tired. If you’re a fan of Jarvis Cocker, there is also an (strangely ASMR-esque) video of him ‘narrating’ ‘The Gare Saint-Lazare’ by Claude Monet. If you’re not a fan, desperate times, desperate measures?