Old Masters Get a COVID-Inspired Makeover

Hope and humour in lo-fi art recreations

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, galleries and museums have emptied out completely, with many facing closures and layoffs

Faced with no chance of getting close to classic pieces anytime soon, people are going one step further: becoming art by re-enacting their favorite masterpieces at home. 

It all started with an Instagram account called Tussen, Kunst and Quarantine, created ‘for everyone at home who needs some relief’. Before long, it became clear that the account’s creations were delivering just that.

Users populated their timelines with everything from Van Gogh self-portraits to depictions of mythological slaughter, utilizing crockery, bedsheets and distinctly unamused pets.

Having seen the idea’s initial impact, Los Angeles’ Getty Museum got in on the action.

The museum, one of many closed for the foreseeable future, is notable for its willingness to engage digitally with audiences, their virtual ‘tours’ collaboration with Google attracting a new type of e-visitor. A few months ago, we analyzed the social strategies of museums with a large audience on social media.

By co-opting this new #newnormal behavior, the Getty managed to drum up a little interest in an institution left high and dry by quarantine. 

The museum’s tweet on the March 25 triggered a spike in online mentions, after which the trend took off in earnest.

However, while the conversation concerning ‘recreation’ and ‘art’ has risen relatively smoothly, a search of the primary hashtags used indicates that the trend has not coalesced around any one particular hashtag. 

We therefore see peaks and sudden drop-offs in the use of #covidclassics, #tussenkunstenquarantaine and the more general #gettymuseum.

It’s reassuring to see that taking things online has not made the art world any less messily pluralistic. And more reassuring still to see undimmed creativity and humour. Dodgy wigs and dodgier underpants might not tie in with how Goya perceived his master works, but these digital love letters could be just what the world needs right now. 

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