It’s (Still) a Wonderful Life: Your Winter Arts and Culture Preview
Carlos Verger Fioretti ’s Phalaena from 1920, on view at the Prado Museum in Madrid. (Source: Museo del Prado)

It’s (Still) a Wonderful Life: Your Winter Arts and Culture Preview


In previous years, global culture guides were basically references. You might not have been traveling to Vienna or Rome anytime soon, but it was nice to know about the cities’ premieres and upcoming blockbuster exhibitions. That’s changed, thanks to Covid-19.

If there is a silver lining to the global pandemic—and that’s a big if—it’s that institutions large and small have pivoted online, bringing their physical exhibitions to a global digital audience. 

The following performances, exhibitions, and concerts have each embraced the physical/digital divide. Many include in-person options but exist online either through livestream, special interactive websites, or recorded performances; a few, including the entire Streaming section, are exclusively for digital consumption.

This winter there are understandably fewer major debuts to look forward to, but no shortage of extraordinary artists doing exceptional work. Enjoy them from the comfort of your home or, if in some lucky cases, live in the flesh .


It’s (Still) a Wonderful Life: Your Winter Arts and Culture Preview

“Arctic: Culture and Climate” at the British Museum, London
The British Museum has developed a robust digital presence for its forthcoming exhibitions, notably converting many of its exhibition-adjacent programming events to online. For its detailed, urgent new show on the Arctic and its cultural and sociological diversity, the museum will host lectures, performances, and readings, many of which will be recorded and livestreamed.
The British Museum, Through Feb. 21

“Uninvited Guests” at the Museo Del Prado, Madrid 
The Prado’s collection hasn’t treated women very kindly over the past 190-odd years, which makes this sweeping exhibition of its little-known artworks all the better. Structured to interrogate the various paradigms and messages of the museum’s collection, the Prado’s delightfully robust online component is more a dynamic visual essay than a dry exhibition guide.
Museo del Prado, Through March 14 

“Triennial “at the Asia Society, New York
The Asia Society has mounted a broad survey of contemporary artists from Asia and the diaspora. Its first-ever Triennial will be broken into two parts; the first runs through Feb. 7, the second from March 16 to June 27, and the exhibition takes place in venues across New York. For those who can’t see it live, the Asia Society has constructed a comprehensive website that features mini pages of the Triennial’s artists and their art.
Asia Society, Through June 27

“Renaissance Watercolors” at the Victoria & Albert, London
The Renaissance evokes heroic oil paintings, frescoes, and marble sculptures—watercolors, not so much. This delightful new show at the V&A includes several famous examples of the medium (look out for Nicholas Hilliard’s Young Man Among Roses), along with many other obscure, albeit exquisite, delicately wrought examples from the museum’s collection. Best of all, the exhibition’s site allows you to zoom in on many of the works; far better than the magnifying glasses they provide in their IRL Portrait Miniatures gallery.
V&A, Opening Date TBD–May 2022

“A New Look At Old Masters” at the Met, New York
Last January, the Metropolitan Museum of Art began a four-year-long skylight renovation project above its European paintings galleries. This December, the first phase of its restoration, which took place above the museum’s super collection of old masters, will be complete. The Met is showcasing the new space, where works by Rubens, Tiepolo, and van Dyck will be graced with warm natural light, with video tours, so anyone outside New York can see the new space for herself. 
The Met, Dec. 12


It’s (Still) a Wonderful Life: Your Winter Arts and Culture Preview

New Year’s Concert, Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna
The Vienna Philharmonic has been hosting its annual New Year’s Day concert since what feels like the Ice Age; usually, most people around the world are too busy with their own celebrations to pay much attention. This year, with restrictions on parties, its time-honored rendition of the The Blue Danube, conducted by maestro Riccardo Muti, will have a rapt, global audience.
Vienna Philharmonic, Jan. 1

Voices of Freedom at Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York
Full disclosure: The Jazz at Lincoln Center program has yet to be formally confirmed (an announcement should come in the next few weeks). As it stands, though, it has a stellar lineup, most notably Wynton Marsalis leading the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in a concert of songs by Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, and others.
Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jan. 8 

The Nash Ensemble Plays Elgar at the LSO, London
For one of the London Symphony Orchestra’s regular Lunchtime Concerts, viewers, and subsequently listeners, will get to hear one of Europe’s most notable chamber ensembles perform a crowd-pleasing lineup of the English composer Edward Elgar—his lyrical Chanson de Matin and lively Chanson de Nuit are on the docket.
London Symphony Orchestra, Jan. 15

Daniil Trifonov at the Berlin Philharmonic, Berlin 
The Berlin Philharmonic, arguably the best orchestra in the world, has inarguably been streaming its concerts via its “Digital Concert Hall” for longer than any of its peers. The Philharmonic has been playing for in-person audiences this fall and winter; for those without access (or the tenacity to jump on the socially distanced tickets), concerts with such stars as Daniil Trifonov, the wunderkind pianist, will stream live.
Berlin Philharmonic, Jan. 28

Anna Netrebko at Met Stars Live in Concert, New York
Once the Met shut down in March, organizers rushed to create a hybrid series of performances that would be performed live … for an audience consisting exclusively of a camera crew. The result is its program Met Stars Live, which in February will introduce the biggest star of them all, Anna Netrebko. Expect close to an hour of her greatest hits, performed, inevitably, in an achingly beautiful (yet to be announced) setting. 
Metropolitan Opera, Feb. 6


Dare to Say at the Nederlands Dans Theater,  Tilburg
The first chunk of the performances of the NDT’s winter season was canceled, but starting in December, audiences in person and online should be able to watch the Nederlands Dans Theater 2 company perform new works by the choreographers Alexander Ekman and Dimo Milev, accompanied by the Dutch Ballet Orchestra. (Heads-up: There will be nudity.)
Nederlands Dans Theater, Through Feb. 18

Testament at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York
Instead of simply recording dances and then putting them online, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has commissioned new works specifically for livestream and recording in its first-ever Virtual Season. Of particular note is Testament by choreographers Matthew Rushing, Clifton Brown, and Yusha Marie Sorzano, with an original score by Damien Sneed.
Alvin Ailey, Dec. 17–24

The Nutcracker at the Royal Ballet, London
A Covid-safe version of the Christmas classic will be performed live for a socially distant audience in London this winter; mask wearing will be required, and visitors are recommended to sit exclusively with people from their household “bubble.” For those outside the London metropolitan area, the Royal Ballet will screen a 2016 recording of the same performance starting Dec. 10.
The Royal Ballet, Dec. 17–Jan. 3

Digital Program 2 at the San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco
Unlike some of its better-funded peers, the SF Ballet has developed a digital winter season that’s subscription-only. Sweetening the deal is that several works created specifically for the program will have their premieres, including a work by Myles Thatcher, a choreographer who also happens to be a soloist at the SF ballet.
San Francisco Ballet, Feb. 11–March 3

Create in Place at the Washington Ballet, Washington
The Washington Ballet returned to (socially distanced, Covid-considered) rehearsals in August, where dancers broke into four isolated “pods” of 10 dancers apiece. Each pod was connected to its own choreographer, and the resultant new works, which were introduced online on Marquee TV, were broadly acclaimed. Now the Ballet is preparing a winter season that largely follows the same format as the first—separate pods, separate choreographers, and all-new dances. On February 5, two world premieres will debut online: Andile Ndlovu’s Something Human and Helga Paris-Morales’ Womb of Heaven, both of which were filmed at outdoor locations in Maryland. Washington Ballet, Winter 2021

Streaming TV

The Pulse of Time
To commemorate its three-year anniversary, the Louvre Abu Dhabi commissioned a 40-minute video narrating many of the works in its collection. The English version (there’s also an Arabic and French) is narrated by Charles Dance, the actor who most recently portrayed Lord Mountbatten in The Crown, and who previously played Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones. The result is soothing and often mesmerizing—a sort of Planet Earth for art.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi

Giving Voice 
There’s an annual competition among thousands of students in 12 cities who compete to deliver the late playwright August Wilson’s work for a shot at Broadway. The documentary includes interviews with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, but the real showstoppers are the six charismatic young people the documentary turns into stars.
Netflix, Dec. 11

This period series, produced by Shonda Rhimes, picks up where Downton Abbey left off (though it’s set a few hundred years before). It follows a heroine, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), as she navigates affairs of the heart and society, discovering to her dismay that, at least in miniseries that include carriages and frock coats, the twain rarely meet. 
Netflix, Dec. 25

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
Celebrity academic Henry Louis Gates Jr. has written and produced and hosts this four-hour, two-part series on the role of the church in African-American society. Interviewing the likes of Oprah, Cornel West, Al Sharpton, and John Legend, Gates articulates the ways in which the church has served as a locus not just of faith but social justice and cultural exchange.
PBS, Feb. 16

The Watch
It would be a stretch to describe this eight-episode fantasy crime series as “cultural,” but it does have a solid pedigree. It’s based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, a 41-novel fantasy series that both draws from and parodies traditional science fiction. This series, which revolves around a “group of misfit cops,” stars Richard Dormer as captain of said group of misfits.
BBC America, Jan. 3

Although it probably doesn’t need to be said, one caveat for the new normal: everything is subject to cancellation.

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