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Drive-Through Exhibits Offer Socially Distanced Art Viewing

By Michelle Baran

Jul 30, 2020

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There are 18 oversized art pieces on display in a new drive-through exhibit in São Paulo, Brazil.

Photo by Andre Penner/AP

There are 18 oversized art pieces on display in a new drive-through exhibit in São Paulo, Brazil.

Museums and art institutes are giving art lovers a chance to experience larger works, murals, and immersive exhibits from their cars.

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It comes as little surprise that creatives would get, well, creative in a time of crisis. Though some museums and galleries that were closed during coronavirus lockdowns have gradually begun to reopen with new social distancing and safety protocols in place, many still remain shut. But some art institutes are giving viewers another way to experience live artworks—from the confines of their car.

In São Paulo, Brazil, where coronavirus cases are still spiking and galleries and museums remain closed due to the pandemic, a Brazilian art gallery owner decided to adapt the culture of drive-in movies to the visual arts and inaugurated a drive-through exhibition.

“DriveThru.Art” in Sao Paolo requires that viewers remain in their car.

DriveThru.Art” displays 18 large works by various artists in a huge warehouse. The panels feature paintings, photographs, videos, and graffiti that were created during the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewers can only visit from inside a car—cost is 40 reals (or US$8) per car, with up to four people—and only 20 cars will be allowed inside at any time. For those who don’t have a car, the exhibit organizers loan one that can accommodate up to three people, for the same price.

Viewers can scan a QR code to access an audio tour of the works—a full tour takes about an hour—and the pieces will be on display through August 9.

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“Art brings reflections, very important discussions, especially during this chaos that we are experiencing,” said Luis Maluf, curator of the exhibition and owner of the Luis Maluf Art Gallery. “The exhibition tries to bring a gesture of hope, but also issues that are happening now.”

Van Gogh by car

“The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit” in Toronto gives viewers the option to visit by car or on foot.

When it launched in May, The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Toronto became one of the first to offer a car-based art experience during the COVID-19 crisis.

Developed by the creators of the 2019 Van Gogh show at the Paris digital art center Atelier des Lumières (or the “Workshop of Lights”), the Toronto incarnation features numerous projections of the Dutch master’s oeuvre. They include Nuit étoilée (Starry Night, 1889), Les Tournesols (Sunflowers, 1888), and La Chambre à coucher (The Bedroom, 1889).

The installation was originally planned to be a walk-through experience housed in the Toronto Star building. But coronavirus social-distancing protocols forced organizers to take a different tack—so they launched a drive-in version at the newspaper’s former printing press warehouse. As of July 1, visitors can opt for either experience. “Gogh by Car” is currently slated to run through September 7 and has already been extended a couple times.

Tickets can be purchased online and are 100 Canadian dollars (or US$75) for one car with up to two passengers—each additional passenger is 40 Canadian dollars (or US$30). The show is about a half-hour long and participants are asked to arrive between 10 and 30 minutes before their slotted reservation time.

A drive-through mural tour in Florida

A colorful mural culture has come to define the St. Petersburg, Florida, arts scene.


St. Petersburg, Florida, is known for its art scene, including a vast and eclectic collection of murals that were created by local, national, and international artists. Now, more than 80 of them have been turned into a drive-through gallery experience curated by the SHINE Mural Festival. Those interested can download the PixelStix app to see a map of all the murals and access a detailed narration about each piece and the artist who created it. The murals can be experienced in-person driving around St. Petersburg or virtually through the SHINE Mural Festival website or through the PixelStix app.

The above examples aren’t the only ones of drive-through or drive-in art experiences that have cropped up since the onset of the pandemic. Additional drive-through exhibits have been hosted in Sacramento (where a Burning Man–inspired exhibit manifested as a drive-through one in late July), in Atlanta (where in June, the Creatives Project brought artworks outside for a one-day “Drive Thru ATL” event), and in Madison, Wisconsin (where an “Outside Looking In” exhibit was hosted on the windows of the historic Garver Feed Mill building in May). 

Because it’s still crucial to maintain social-distancing measures to prevent new outbreaks of COVID-19, we are likely to continue to see these safe and innovative solutions to helping people experience art and culture amid a pandemic, similar to the kinds of social-distance creativity we have already seen in the restaurant and entertainment industries.

Associated Press contributed reporting.

>>Next: Museums Begin to Reopen With New Rules and “Social-Distancing Devices”

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