Quarantine Culture: 5 Ways to Experience Design and Art Without Leaving Your Home

Dazzling installations by Shoplifter and Raúl de Nieves, a virtual architecture tour of Pittsburgh, nighttime adventures inside the Mercedes-Benz Museum, and more.

Though the novel coronavirus has shown signs of slowing down, the cultural sector remains at a standstill: Museums and galleries are shuttered in many countries, and fairs and festivals have been canceled. At the advice of experts, people are hunkering down to self-quarantine and practice social distancing. The situation is evolving quickly, a new reality is being forced upon us, and fields like architecture and painting can seem trivial. And yet, at moments of such isolation and crisis, art, design, and performance can offer powerful means of connection—and a welcome escape from the disorienting present. With exhibitions and concerts called off, our editors survey five low-risk ways to experience culture—from Prada’s charitable conversation series to an impressive one-take tour of the Hermitage Museum, and more.

PPG Place by Johnson/Burgee Architects; 1979–1984. Photography by Raymund Ryan

Architecture Tour of Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle

The vibrant neighborhoods of Pittsburgh may lack their usual bustle during the quarantine, but one curator has made the best of this intermission by putting the city’s rich architectural history front and center. Raymund Ryan, curator at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center, has followed the footsteps that the University of Pittsburgh professor of art and architecture history Franklin Toker first took in his 1986 book Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait by exploring the city’s Golden Triangle and photographing its most notable buildings. 

“The most cherished guide books have a voice that allows readers to feel like they are being ushered by an empathetic expert,” Ryan writes on the museum’s Storyboard platform. “What comes across in Toker’s writing is an understanding of the urban structure of the city paired with his insight into the multiple aspects of buildings that we think we know, or that we have somehow overlooked. He is alert to minor as well as major works, and open to obscure as well as famous architects.” Throughout the tour, the Irish-born curator channels Toker by ruminating on inimitable fixtures of the Pittsburgh skyline, such as the fortress-like PPG Place by Philip Johnson and John Burgee, to hidden gems such as the exquisite metalwork inside the Koppers Building’s style-melding lobby.


A Five-Hour, One-Take Journey Through Russia’s Hermitage Museum

If you’re looking to experience a museum vicariously, look no further than Apple’s latest campaign for the iPhone 11 Pro. Clocking in at more than five hours in length, the video offers an exhaustive single-shot tour of the Hermitage Museum, one of the most-visited cultural institutions in Russia. Yes, it’s technically branded content, but we can’t help but be impressed by the dedication and planning required from Axinya Gog, the video’s 29-year-old director, who equipped the iPhone with handheld camera stabilizers and room-scanning cranes to ensure a steady hand. “This video to me is all about connection through time,” she tells Artnet News. “Art that is timeless meets modern life and state-of-the-art technology,” including a custom designed app to command video controls remotely. The video offers high-definition footage of Rembrandts, Caravaggios, and a ballet duet from the Hermitage Theater throughout its run time. It’s also worth noting that when the six-hour shoot wrapped up, the iPhone still had 19 percent battery life.


Virtual Tours of the Mercedes-Benz Museum

Another vicarious museum experience comes courtesy of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, which has shared a comprehensive guided tour on Instagram Stories. A sequence of 88 slides virtually walks you through the institution’s extensive archives, which recount a near-exhaustive history of the automobile. Take a ride back in time to the earliest vehicle concepts, including the Daimler Petroleum Reitwagen—widely recognized as the world’s first motorbike—all the way to today’s pioneering moves in emission-free technology. If automotive history and technology isn’t your thing, we recommend heading to the museum’s YouTube channel, where you can find an hour-long nighttime tour inside the museum’s impressive UNStudio-designed campus, whose helix-inspired building always felt ahead of its time. 


Prada Possible Conversations

Prada’s long-standing belief in fashion’s role as a cornerstone for cultural exchange has resulted in “Prada Possible Conversations,” an Instagram discussion series that keeps the dialogue going even if the world has come to a grinding halt. Each conversation unites global thinkers from diverse backgrounds and industries like fashion, art, architecture, and cinema to explore how culture has been impacted by today’s uncertain times—and predict how it may evolve in the future. The first conversation brought together fashion critic Alexander Fury with author and curator Pamela Golbin to discuss fashion’s role in times of crisis. This week, expect a lively dialogue about fashion storytelling post-coronavirus between costume designer Arianne Phillips and actress Olivia Wilde. Each edition will result in a donation from Prada to UNESCO, whose work during the pandemic has reinforced the importance of culture, creativity, and education for more than 1.5 billion students worldwide affected by school and university closures. 


SCAD Museum of Art Exhibition Videos

SCAD Museum of Art may be closed until further notice, but the Georgia-based institution has been working tirelessly to create a series of informative videos that shine a much-deserved spotlight onto its dynamic array of exhibitions and installations. There are several to choose from, and each is a guaranteed feast for the eyes. Our favorites are “Chromo Zone” by Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, better known as Shoplifter, who crafted a fanciful, Seussian environment out of synthetic hair extensions in intense chromatic values. The Brooklyn artist and Whitney Biennial alum Raúl de Nieves, meanwhile, shares “Reemerge the zero begins your life, eternal is your light,” a dazzling installation that reimagines SCAD’s dynamic Jewel Boxes into a kaleidoscopic, spiritual depiction of the body. Similarly spiritual is Kenturah Davis’s “Everything That Cannot Be Known,” a series of more than 20 blurry figure drawings that ruminate on the interrelated dynamics of penmanship and the representation of black bodies.

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