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A Private Cultural Tour of Europe

Once the children are asleep or the parents away, with your favourite drink in hand and a locally flavoured meal, switch on your magic carpet and join us for the ride.

Albert Einstein once said, “I love to travel but I hate to arrive.” Einstein was a smart man, but surely he couldn’t have anticipated what this means for today. As many of us were preparing for a spring getaway to Europe, we soon learned that we feasibly could not arrive. Spending time with family over a holiday break is a treat we all look forward to. This year, the experience is bittersweet, as the pandemic has confined half of the world population at home.

Initially, the idea of a holiday may feel like a far-fetched dream. But, a new world of possibilities has emerged! In addition to multigenerational and transnational dinners with friends, cultural institutions around Europe are bringing tourist experiences to your computer screen.

Were you planning a trip to Europe? Wishing you could run away there? Join me on an unprecedented cultural tour of Europe — one that surely would have delighted Einstein. This kind of travel lacks all the pains of arrival: the jetlag, the queue, and the dreaded currency exchange. It’s all free! Once the children are asleep, grab your favorite drink, switch on your magic carpet and join me for the ride.

Monday in London

On April 4th, the National Gallery opened up the first ever UK show dedicated to Artemesia Gentileschi. Gentileschi is the most famous female artist of the 17th century by far. Not afraid of a challenge, she said, “I will show Your Illustrious Lordship what a woman can do.” She ran her own studio, and many sought her work for its Caravaggesque style.

Plans for the exhibition followed the National Gallery’s acquisition of Gentileschi’s 1615 “Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.” As travel bans spread across Europe, loaned artworks could not make it to London. There is still hope that the museum will accommodate later dates.

Meanwhile, we can enjoy an in-depth look at eight paintings that were going to be part of the show. Letizia Treves, the exhibition curator, is happy to give you a private tour.

Tuesday in Ghent

Another blockbuster exhibition is currently behind closed doors: Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution. Jan Van Eyck is one of the most important masters of the Early Northern Renaissance. For many years, people believed he was the inventor of oil painting. While art historians have long disproved this fact, the artist still remains incredibly groundbreaking. His work demonstrates a keen ability to painstakingly represent the most precise details.

Therefore, I suggest we visit Ghent and zoom in on his masterpieces! Let’s stop first at the Ghent Altarpiece, whose seven-year long restoration has just been completed. Don’t worry! The alarm of the museum won’t ring no matter how up close you look.

Wednesday in Paris

Since the beginning of the French lockdown, the Opera National de Paris has been screening performances for free each week. So far, I have watched Rudolf Noureev’s Freudian take on Swan Lake and an Almodovarian Barber of Seville. On April 12th, they released a Tribute to Jerome Robbins — the New York multi-award-winning theatre producer, director, dancer and choreographer. Should I pick one achievement to fully introduce him? Perhaps I should say he won the 1961 Best Director Academy Award for West Side Story.

To get a sense of the wonderful place you have just visited, you can go on a virtual tour of the Opera house! Zoom in on Marc Chagall’s ceiling and walking on its roof with Paris at your feet. Enjoy the show!

Thursday in Rome

Exactly 500 years ago, Raphael passed away at only 37 years old on April 6th. Despite being so young, he left behind an incredible collection and legacy. You may often find his name alongside words like “genius” and “masterpiece.” To celebrate this anniversary, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome opened a major Raphael exhibition on March 5th featuring more than 200 works. The exhibition was meant to run until June 2nd, but it is now closed until further notice. Yet, Professor Antonio Paolucci can still guide through a private tour of the famous Vatican frescoes of the Renaissance. I took a guided tour of the Vatican a few years ago, and I can attest that it is a true luxury to avoid the pressing crowds for this magical visit.

Friday in Sardinia

“Comes over one an absolute necessity to move.” This is the opening line to Sea and Sardinia by D.H. Lawrence, which entices an absolute necessity to follow him at the start of the weekend. In this short travel account written in 1921, we start in Taormina, Sicily. Then, we make our way to Sardinia with Lawrence and his wife, Queen Bee. The rhythm is slow, matching our current pace. The descriptions will bring the stunning views of Etna, Stromboli and the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea to your living room.

Reine Okuliar

Reine co-founded Galerie E.G.P, a contemporary art gallery based in Paris, in 2009. She is an art historian and freelance curator, with over 40 global exhibitions, and supports institutions such as Tate and the Whitechapel Gallery. A published art writer, Reine is a member of the New Art Dealers Association and of the Association of Women in the Arts. You can keep up with Reine on Instagram or on her website

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