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London's National Gallery charges £8 for virtual tour of blockbuster Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition

Move reflects how museums could cash in on digital initiatives

Artemisia at the National Gallery is currently closed in accordance with a second national lockdown across England Photo: The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery in London has found a new revenue stream, charging £8 for an online curator’s tour of its critically acclaimed exhibition dedicated to the female Old Master Artemisia Gentileschi. Letizia Treves, the show’s curator, takes virtual visitors on a 30-minute tour of the exhibition which is due to end 24 January 2021.

Treves says in a statement: “Although this film cannot replace the experience of seeing the exhibition in person at the National Gallery, it will allow us to share Artemisia’s story and paintings with as many people as possible, in particular those who cannot make it to Trafalgar Square right now.”

She adds that the show was postponed from April due to the first lockdown, and has now closed temporarily due to the second lockdown across England, which is due to end 2 December. The gallery website says that tickets are on sale for visits from 3 December onwards; the online tour is free for members of the National Gallery.

Thirty works by Artemisia (1593-1654 or later), the daughter of the artist Orazio Gentileschi, have been loaned for the National Gallery exhibition, with half coming from Italian lenders. The exhibition is sponsored by numerous backers including Google Arts & Culture and the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust. The Art Newspaper’s own video tour of the show is meanwhile still available to view and Artemisia devotees can also listen to our in-depth podcast tour.

How museums monetise their digital content was a recurring theme at the Louvre Abu Dhabi/NYU Abu Dhabi digital symposium Reframing Museums, held earlier this week. In a roundtable discussion entitled The future of exhibitions in a post-pandemic world, Chris Dercon, the president of the government cultural body Rmn-Grand Palais, asked: “Do we continue to upload endless digital content without a system of monetisation?”  

In a leaked letter earlier this year, the UK Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, set out how museums might be able to raise further revenue, from "hospitality [and] trading activities" to "monetising digital offers”.