A children’s story called “Frederick”, created and drawn by Leo Lionni, an American artist of Dutch origin who is considered one of the most influential graphic designers of the twentieth-century, explains to children the importance of the arts, especially intangible arts such as poetry. Frederick is a little mouse who is just as busy as all the others stocking up for winter, but his provisions are very special, because he collects sunbeams, colours and words. The other mice think he is lazy because they can’t see his provisions, but it is actually Frederick’s provisions that save all the mice from succumbing to the boredom and melancholy of long winter evenings. At this time of lockdown, museums both great and small, art galleries, libraries and archives the world over have closed their physical doors and become our “Frederick” the mouse, offering us access to the valuable “provisions” they have stored up through today’s media.
Virtual tours, interactive photographs, and 3D reconstructions are only a few of the ways the museums present the works of art and architecture they enclose to an international public in a vast programme that allows people to travel the world without leaving home. Some of the world’s most important and best-known museums and cultural sites may be found on the pages of Google Arts & Culture, such as the Palace of Versailles, the British Museum and the Tate Gallery in London, or on the official websites of museums such as the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Vatican Museums in Rome, and the Design Museum in London, to mention only a few. The Prado in Madrid has chosen a different method, offering high definition images of its collections. A number of museums are showcasing not only their collections but their “architecture”, including Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The iconic building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, recently made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was one of the last to announce its temporary closure to the public, but at the same time it launched the hashtag #MuseumFromHome joining proposals from museums all over the world through the social networks. Italy, the first European country to go under lockdown, reacted right away with a highly diverse range, from the many possibilities offered by MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid, to live streaming of artistic performances on the official Instagram of Triennale di Milano and a vast database of video, audio, and documentaries offered by RAI, Italy’s public television service. The archive on the Raiplay website offers a great variety of material focusing on the theme of “architecture”, including the “three architects” series focusing on Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, and Gio Ponti, the French film “Zaha Hadid” (2017) or the German “Bauhaus Spirit” (2018) marking the centennial of the Bauhaus, to mention only a few of the most recent. More videos are available from SpazioFMGperl'Architettura, the gallery and showroom of the Iris Ceramica and FMG Fabbrica Marmi e Graniti brands in the Iris Ceramica Group, which has made all the documentary films in The Architects Series focusing on today’s architectural studio available to the public.
In conclusion, it is certainly worth mentioning the UNESCO World Library, which has made its immense heritage of books, manuscripts, photographs and maps available online: a legacy of inestimable value promoting friendship and solidarity among peoples through reciprocal knowledge and collaboration in intellectual activities.
(01-04) The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York ph. David Heald © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
(05-06) Guggenheim Bilbao ph. Erika Ede © FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
(07) Maxxi Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome ph. Musacchio & Ianniello © Fondazione MAXXI