fri 30/10/2020

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 3: gigapixel Rembrandt, magic mushrooms, and more | reviews, news & interviews

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 3: gigapixel Rembrandt, magic mushrooms, and more

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 3: gigapixel Rembrandt, magic mushrooms, and more

The best art online this week

Monet's studio at Giverny is now an online destination, along with those of many other artists© Fondation Claude Monet, Giverny

The limitations of life on screen are all too apparent at the moment, and yet still there are instances where online can offer something beyond the reach of an old-fashioned trip to an art gallery.

The limitations of life on screen are all too apparent at the moment, and yet still there are instances where online can offer something beyond the reach of an old-fashioned trip to an art gallery. Ultra-high resolution reproductions of works of art are a case in point, and many museum websites now allow us to examine their collections in the microscopic detail once reserved for conservation departments. A new photograph of Rembrandt's The Night Watch, 1642, renders it in a whopping 44.8 gigapixel image, itself a composite of 528 exposures, and allows anyone interested to zoom in on individual brushstrokes, which aside from any serious study can be an aimlessly satisfying pleasure all of its own.

Available on the Rijksmuseum's website, the image has been produced in the course of a major conservation project called Operation Night Watch, which resumed last week having been halted due to the virus. The project is both a study and a restoration of Rembrandt's vast painting, which has remained on view throughout the work, enclosed within a purpose built glass chamber (pictured below). The restoration work, due to have begun this year, will now commence in 2021.Work continues on The Night Watch, RijksmuseumAnother wonderful experience only available online is Curations, a free digital tool that allows anyone so inclined to put together a virtual exhibition drawn from UK public collections. The tool has been developed by Art UK, a charity working to make accessible the depth and breadth of UK public holdings, which extends far beyond the major museums and galleries. This is a new strand to what is already an invaluable resource - it's amazing how much art there is hidden away in little known regional museums, and how many sculptures live in unlikely shopping precincts or parks. As well as being a fun and educational tool, Curations is expected to be used by museums wishing to preserve an exhibition online once the event has passed, and is seen by Art UK as a major step in making the country's public art holdings available to all.

The strange and multi-faceted world of mushrooms is now available to explore online in a virtual tour of Mushrooms: The Art, Design & Future of Fungi at Somerset House, launched on 18 May to mark International Museum Day. The show takes a broad and long view of an organism that has inspired artists and mystics, architects and designers. Accompanied by a menacing soundtrack, and rather a lot of text, the six-minute tour packs in highlights including Beatrix Potter’s detailed watercolour illustrations and Carsten Höller’s psychedelic suitcase of spinning mushrooms. Architects, shoe designers, and even the funeral industry feature, with myriad new applications for this versatile, sustainable material. (Pictured below: Beatrix Potter, Hygrophorus puniceus, 1894).3. Beatrix Potter, Hygrophorus puniceus, pencil and watercolour, 7.10.1894,Also in honour of International Museum Day, the already addictive website of the Artist's Studio Museum Network has expanded its offering to include virtual visits to artists' studios all over the world. Highlights include Monet's house and garden at Giverny (main picture), Rodin's studio at Meudon, the studio-home of Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Dali's house at Girona – but there are many more.

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