Celebrating the social media challenge that got us through lockdown

The Getty Museum Challenge was a firm favourite during lockdown, challenging people to recreate some of the world’s most famous artworks using only what they had to hand. A new book documents some of the best efforts

In recent years, museums have turned to social media to challenge long-held perceptions, reassuring people that they’re not the stuffy institutions we might assume them to be. We’ve seen this in the work done by The Museum of English Rural Life, which went viral on Twitter in 2018 after sharing an image of a particularly large sheep, and has continued to use memes to engage with people online.

A more recent success comes in the form of The Getty Museum Challenge, launched in March this year when many of us were in social isolation. It laid out a simple task for people – find an artwork from the Getty online collection, and then recreate it using things lying around the house.

Top image: Anna de Mendoza de la Cerda, Princess of Éboli, 16th century, by Alonso Sánchez Coello, recreation by Laura Belconde. Above: The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, recreation by @clairesalvo
The Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo Buonarroti, 1508-12, recreation by George Anthony Galdamez
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, 1665, recreation by Jenny Boot

Maybe it was the simplicity of the challenge, or perhaps it appealed to everyone’s collective lockdown boredom, but it quickly took off. More than 100,000 responded, showing some truly outrageous interpretations of much-loved artworks. The best of these are collected together in Off The Walls, which is published by Getty Publications, with all profits being donated to Artist Relief, an organisation supporting artists in the US.

Not only are the images a testament to people’s ingenuity, they’re a happy example of what can be achieved when museums are brave enough to appeal to people’s silly side. There’s many ways to engage people in learning about art, and this is definitely one of the quirkier, more successful attempts we’ve seen this year.

Off The Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks is published by Getty Publications, priced $14; shop.getty.edu