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New Getty publication brings together life-affirming DIY masterpieces made during lockdown

Participants worldwide re-created famous works by Vermeer, Munch and Klimt—using everyday household items

Édouard Manet, Jeanne (Spring), 1881; Re-creation: Jeannette Hulick courtesy Jeannette Hulick

Who knew that the coronavirus pandemic would prompt people worldwide to turn themselves (and their pets) into masterpieces from art history, recreating classic works by superstar artists such as Frida Kahlo and Vincent van Gogh?

When officials at the Getty in Los Angeles threw down the highly imaginative gauntlet to re-create works of art at home using just three items—ranging from toilet rolls to spaghetti—little did they expect to see the cutest of cats modelled on Édouard Manet’s Jeanne (Spring), 1881; or a pair of French bulldogs connecting in the style of Michelangelo’s epochal Sistine Chapel painting The Creation of Adam (around 1508).

Getty professionals have put together a selection of these impressive, life-affirming recreations in a new publication, Off the Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks (Getty Publications; all profits will be donated to Artist Relief, an emergency charity initiative offering resources to artists across the United States). 

Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, ca. 1665; Re-creation: Jenny Boot Courtesy Jenny Boot

“We are endlessly grateful for the Internet’s embrace of this challenge,” says Annelisa Stephan, assistant director of digital content at Getty, and Sarah Waldorf, social media lead at Getty, in the preface, eloquently adding: “It speaks to the power of art to bond us together. Art invites us into the experience of others and connects us with our shared past. In isolation, a sense of community is sacred.”

The Getty initiative was inspired by the Instagram account called Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine (Between Art and Quarantine), which was launched on 14 March as a funny suggestion between friends over WhatsApp while working from home. The account, which was shared on Instagram by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, has now posted more than 700 images and has 280,000 followers.

The Getty’s DIY-masterpiece project developed the idea, allowing participants to download images from the institution’s online collection. Cézanne, Vermeer and Munch naturally proved popular choices.

Off the Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks, Getty Publications, 144pp, $14.00 (pb), available from September

Michelangelo Buonarroti, The Creation of Adam, ca. 1508–12; Re-creation: George Anthony Galdamez courtesy George Anthony Galdamez