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Gallery hones the art of virtual tours and digital experiences


The Art Gallery of South Australia is working to create a virtual tour of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial and more digital experiences for art lovers as new COVID-19 restrictions force the closure of all galleries, museums and libraries.

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The latest coronavirus restrictions announced last night by Prime Minister Scott Morrison mean numerous institutions across the country will be unable to operate from midnight tonight.

A number of major galleries in other states had already closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, including the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queensland Art Gallery.

The Art Gallery of South Australia and the SA Museum have remained open until now, albeit with significantly reduced visitor numbers.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected, directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 outbreak,” AGSA director Rhana Devenport said in a statement this morning announcing the gallery’s temporary closure.

“In these times of uncertainty, art can play a pivotal and positive role and a source of solace.

“Now more than ever, we invite our audiences to stay connected to art, through our enhanced online presence and through our social media channels. We can’t wait to welcome you back to the gallery.”

SA Museum director Brian Oldman also issued a statement this morning confirming that it would close to the public from 5pm.

“The South Australian Museum aims to inspire in all people wonder and curiosity about life on Earth, and when we’re able to open again we’ll be here for you,” he said.

“In the interim there are many ways to stay connected with the museum. I encourage you to visit our website and follow our social media for updates.

It’s less than a month since the Art Gallery of SA launched the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, which showcases the works of 23 contemporary artists in both the gallery and the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

It is currently working to create a virtual tour of Monster Theatres so members of the public can view the artworks while the physical gallery is closed.

Performances of Howl – a no-holds-barred Biennial event celebrating censored, maligned or misunderstood artworks from modern history – will also be made available online.

Biennial artist Stelarc’s 9-metre robot Reclining Stick Man, which occupies a whole room in the AGSA, is already being live streamed around the world, with audiences able to operate it from their living rooms.

“We are channelling energy into the online space, especially in relation to digital experiences and virtual tours of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres exhibitions and our collection,” Devenport said.

“Also available through our website are extensive activities for children and families to create art at home to engage and inspire families and broader audiences in these uncertain times.”

The AGSA’s Start Club for children offers a range of at-home activities, and the gallery says it will also be engaging with people through its social media channels, as well as giving virtual visitors the opportunity to ask curators questions.

The SA Museum is also working on some digital projects, and offers a virtual tour of its displays through its website.

The COVID-19 crisis has already left the performing arts sector reeling as a result of closures and restrictions on public gatherings.

The State Government of SA has this week launched an arts grants support package that includes “quick response grants” for independent artists seeking to share new and existing work via digital and virtual platforms, and to “undertake professional development or continue creative practice”.

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