Whether your children are budding art aficionados or just need a quick tutorial on Pablo Picasso, they can experience some of the world’s great art with the click of a mouse. While viewing art on-line can’t be confused with seeing it in person, the following Web sites make up for a lack of verisimilitude with great features that allow viewers to explore galleries, educate themselves about art history, play games, and, of course, shop.
A great place to begin is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its 5,000 years’ worth of holdings. Viewers are greeted with a splash page featuring a different artwork each day. On the home page, visitors may preview upcoming exhibits, make their own on-line gallery, or tour the Met’s collection. Kids can click on the Explore and Learn section for interactive art lessons.
Heading south through cyberspace, young art connoisseurs will find the National Gallery of Art, whose exhibits feature works by Mary Cassatt, Alfred Stieglitz, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Jan Vermeer, just to name a few. Your kids can enjoy such features as the Tour of the Week, NGA Kids, and a tour through the life and work of Jackson Pollock.
Children can also spend days or weeks exploring many of the United States’ other great art museums on-line, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
But there’s a whole world of art out there, and art lovers won’t want to miss any of it. A quick hop across the virtual Atlantic lands the tourist in London’s Tate, which houses the national collections of British art and international modern art. The site lists 25,000 searchable items, each with its own information page, and there are images available for more than half of the items (50,000 images will be available by the end of 2001). The Tate site also offers some wonderful 3-D panoramas that will make any traveler’s head spin. Other European sites well worth a visit are the Prado and, of course, the Louvre.
From Europe, children can travel to Argentina to view a selection of contemporary artists at the Proa Foundation art center; to Jordan, to meet a broad selection of Arab artists at Darat al Funun: A Home for the Arts; and to Japan, to learn about the ancient artifacts and cultures of Japan, China, and Korea from a friendly professor at the Kyoto National Museum.
If your child is in the mood for a fanciful journey stateside, there are plenty of esoteric sites to choose from. For instance, there’s nothing like a little car art to get you rolling (www.artcarmuseum.com). Whimsical folk art is all over the Web. Check out the Lynch Collection of Outsider Art for an eyeful of unique visions. Finally, to take a rest from greatness, your kids can travel to the Museum of Bad Art.
Because even the most energetic cyberspace tourists can suffer from travel fatigue, kids should be encouraged to pace themselves. Instead of dashing through dozens of sites, they should focus on one site at a time. Beginning in the information zone (where does this museum exist in the physical world? What is its mission? What are its holdings?) can keep them from getting overwhelmed by too much of a good thing. Travelers should read the guidebooks, then follow their bliss.
Frances Dowell is founder and editor of Dream/Girl Magazine: The Arts Magazine for Girls.