Design & Style

Enjoy a virtual art experience at the NGV.

8 April 2020

If you’re housebound and craving some culture, you’re in luck – you can now tour the National Gallery of Victoria online and attend virtual exhibitions.

Design & Style

Enjoy a virtual art experience at the NGV.

8 April 2020

If you’re housebound and craving some culture, you’re in luck – you can now tour the National Gallery of Victoria online and attend virtual exhibitions.

A man walking in front of a large glass waterwall

The NGV is now offering visitors the opportunity to explore its vast collection online. Image: NGV Photographic Services.

The National Gallery of Victoria has just virtually opened its doors to the public as part of an initiative to keep people connected to the arts community while self-isolating at home. Not only can you explore 90% of the gallery’s 75,000 works online, but you can also virtually tour exhibitions, watch behind the scenes videos with curators and read long-form stories about various works.

“We’ve been actively digitising the collection for some time, but when we realised we were going into a potentially long period of closure, we decided to respond in a more proactive and creative way,” explains NGV director Tony Ellwood AM. “We knew people were going to have more time to read and consider things, so it seemed right to increase the amount of content we were releasing and do some things we hadn’t traditionally done before.”

Tour the best of the gallery from your couch

A gallery wall full of paintings

You can take a free virtual tour of an exhibition of your choice. Image: NGV Photographic Services.

If you’re wondering where to start, head over to the NGV Channel, which will be updated with new virtual exhibition tours as they become available. You can currently explore Rei Kawakubo’s innovative fashion designs as part of the Collecting Comme exhibition, or the NGV Indigenous Art collection Marking Time. If you missed out on the immensely popular exhibitions Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines and KAWS: Companionship In The Age Of Loneliness, don’t worry - both exhibitions are available now as virtual tours.

Three mannequins wearing black dresses

Installation view of Collecting Comme at NGV International, Melbourne 31 October 2019 – 26 July 2020. © Comme des Garçons. Image: Tom Ross.

Each virtual tour also links to behind the scenes documentaries about the making of the exhibitions, and interviews with artists and curators, which add an immersive element that visitors would not necessarily get to enjoy in person.

“I think people are really appreciating the long-form content and the richer stories,” says Ellwood. “It’s a great opportunity to spend more time with the work.”

Explore rare pieces that you wouldn’t normally see

If you prefer to dive straight into the collection, you can search the vast treasure trove by artist name or artwork. You will have access to hundreds of works that aren’t even on display in the physical gallery.

“It’s not uncommon for beautiful works that are light sensitive to be put away for 10 years or more,” says Ellwood. “Old masters of prints, drawings, textiles and photographs have to be rested so that they are preserved. The great thing about the NGV’s virtual gallery is that you can view those pieces online any time you like.”

Highlights include the stunning Spirit of Herbarium couture dress, which was designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior’s Spring 2017 collection, and The great wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai, which is one of the most famous works of Japanese art in the world.  

The great wave off Kanagawa artwork

Katsushika Hokusai, The great wave off Kanagawa (c. 1830) from the Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji series 1826-33. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Felton Bequest, 1909. Image: Supplied

If you need to keep your stir-crazy kids entertained, there are plenty of activities for them as well. A selection of NGV Kids' activity sheets are available online, while students can access live interactive video classes and learning resources to keep their minds active.

The easiest way to stay up to date with the latest virtual content is to follow the hashtag #NGVEveryDay on social media. The gallery will be posting highlights from its collection daily.

“In these challenging times art has an important role to play in offering solace and inspiration, and we encourage people to continue to explore and enjoy the NGV collection from home,” says Ellwood.

Discover the NGV’s virtual collection now, or enjoy regular insights from curators by following @NGVMelbourne on all social media channels.  

By Emily Tatti