How to Visit California’s Museums From Home

Take a virtual leap into the mood-lifting and mind-altering culture that’s only a click away



Weeks into California’s statewide new world order of sheltering in place to stop the coronavirus spread, its galleries, museums and an array of culture creators are offering much-needed virtual escapes. New sites awash in sounds, images and deep dives into archival collections are surfacing daily, offering beautifully contemplative moments, thought-provoking discussions and uplifting sonic discoveries. Here, a curated selection of offerings.


Yayoi Kusama’s luminous and immersive Infinity Mirrored Room —The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013), one of The Broad’s most mesmerizing works, is “fundamentally a sensory experience,” says Ed Patuto, the downtown L.A. art museum’s director of audience engagement. He and Darin Klein, the institution’s associate director of events, paired video footage of Kusama’s work with aural sounds created by L.A.-based artist and composer Geneva Skeen to launch the “Infinite Drone” series, a vibrant new light and sound experience also accessible through Instagram. Patuto says Kusama’s vision is especially relevant now, given her piece’s unique ability to make viewers feel like “part of an infinite universe — something larger than ourselves or our world as we can experience it.”


Downtown Los Angeles art gallery Hauser and Wirth is launching dispatches from artists around the world who are sheltering in place, including Luchita Hurtado, who checks in from her home studio in Santa Monica. The 99-year-old painter emphasizes our connection to the natural world, especially in the face of a pandemic. “It should be our first concern, the health of our planet,” she advises. “We have to look straight at things. I always look for the good part in every problem.”

The vast online archive of Venice’s L.A. Louver now contains over 40 years of shows, including Alice Neel portraits, Michael C. McMillen’s found object installations and Gajin Fujita’s first solo show, “Wicked Beauty.” Founding director Peter Goulds remembers visiting Fujita at his family home in Boyle Heights, where the still emerging artist was working in 2002, getting a firsthand look at “the singular lens through which he processed visual information as a second-generation Japanese-American from the inner city.”

Take a virtual stroll through the galleries of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor and de Young museums using Google Arts and Culture exactly as you’d use the Mountain View-based tech company’s Street View for maps. The search giant also counts works from more than 2,000 museums in its database, and if ever there was a time to go down a rabbit hole searching for Claes Oldenburg ordinary objects, this is it.

Century City’s Annenberg Space for Photography is offering a tour of its new portrait show, “Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling,” led by co-curator David Friend. He provides fresh insight into Annie Leibovitz’s 1991 cover shot of Demi Moore, which he calls a “cultural bellwether,” the perpetual influence of nocturnal Berlin on Helmut Newton’s racy shots and Jackie Nickerson’s high art aesthetic in a recent cover shot of Lupita Nyong’o.


On Mondays, request calming images of sunsets, flowers or even puppies on LACMA’s Instagram. Its team will post matching examples from its permanent collections. Or initiate a scavenger hunt of your own; the collections are entirely searchable from home. LACMA director Michael Govan is also one of many curators discussing artists and their works in Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum video series. His fresh look at minimalist Dan Flavin’s fluorescent tube configurations bring to mind the inventive lighting displays ever-present at Rodarte fashion shows.

With Marfa’s International Art Fair postponed until August, revisiting L.A. Dance Project’s Marfa Dance Episodes set amid the minimalist rusticity of windy West Texas offers an alternative dose of high desert creativity.

Additionally, choreographer, actor and director Debbie Allen, whose initial L.A.-based live Instagram dance class drew more than 35,000, is launching a series of Zoom gatherings for instruction in ballet, jazz, hip-hop and African dance through Debbie Allen Dance Academy. And, for those who favor a freestyle option, the California African American Museum is launching a virtual version of its Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop dance party.

Sunset at The West Hollywood Edition, which has hosted performances by Chaka Khan and Janelle Monae since its opening last fall, is also going digital. Head of programming DJ Zen Freeman is broadcasting live sets via Instagram on Friday and Saturday evenings.


The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel is teaming up with radio stations KUSC in Southern California and KDFC in the Bay Area for an online and on-air series, At Home with Gustavo, filled with his personal reflections on a curated selection of classical recordings. The Grammy Museum is also stepping up its online offerings with upcoming archival Museum at Home performances by Common, Brandi Carlile and Alice Merton.


Newly launched Dior Talks podcasts with women artists and curators featuring such luminaries — and recent collaborators — as Judy Chicago and Tracey Emin premiere each Friday. SFMOMA’s online Artist Interviews series also includes Chicago, plus Kara Walker, JR, Ellsworth Kelly and a seemingly infinite loop of creatives. In the latest edition of The Sex Ed, the podcast pioneered by author and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele describes his approach to art and why his favors Orpheus and Apollo amid the pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses.


Striving to limit screen time? L.A.-based sound artist Alan Nakagawa is teaming up with Orange County Museum of Art to create a collective work based on haiku poems written, recorded and submitted by the general public. Or, to unplug entirely, open a box of pastels and color van Gogh’s Irises (1889), one of a series of downloadable images compiled by the Getty Center from its considerable archives.


Feature image: HILARY SWANK photographed by NORMAN JEAN ROY for Vanity Fair, March 2005.


April 8, 2020

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