Article: Virtual art in a time of crisis

Written for The Sociological Review, where the special focus for March 2021 is Art and Representation. This short essay pulls together threads I’m working on for GlobalGRACE, and which I’m currently weaving into a much bigger project. These are the opening paragraphs of the piece:

“Over the past year, galleries, museums and art institutions worldwide have turned to virtual spaces as a means of continuing their activities during lockdowns. Many have hosted active websites for years, if not decades, but the coronavirus pandemic has prompted flurries of activity as sites became the only, rather than an additional point of contact with visitors.

In this post, I consider some of the aesthetic and curatorial trends emerging from this period of rapid ‘online exhibition’ growth, and consider them in relation to the ways in which cultural theorists have analysed historical shifts in how we display, see, and understand art. I focus on two particular questions arising, the first of meaning, ownership and access, and the second of spatiality and recognition. Both questions touch on the important ongoing debate about how, and how far it is possible, to ‘decolonise’ the museum – a conversation to which I hope these brief reflections might usefully contribute.”

The full essay is available HERE, accompanied by a great illustration by Olivia Wilson.

Citation: S. McGuirk. 2021. “Virtual Art in a Time of Crisis: Ideology, Familiarity, and the Digital White Cube.” The Sociological Review Blog. March 3, 2021: