The Ministry of Culture has launched a new website where visitors can view more than 800 of the artworks in its vast private collection

Lebanon has been without a national museum of art for too long, but as of May it finally has one. There’s just one twist – it’s entirely virtual. The Ministry of Culture has an extensive collection of more than 2000 paintings and sculptures by some of Lebanon’s most famous modernist artists, but all of them have been locked away in storage for decades. Under the guidance of the current Minister of Culture, Raymond Araygi, 800 of these works are now available for public viewing on a specially designed website called the Virtual National Museum of Modern Arts.

Available in four languages – English, Arabic, French and Spanish – the website features an overview of the artists in its collection. Visitors can search by name or explore the full drop down list to discover a short biography of each artist, as well as details of any works that form part of the ministry’s collection.

Alternatively, visitors can take the virtual tour to see the works hanging on the walls of an imaginary museum. Divided chronologically, the works are divided into four categories: Before 1960, 1960-1970, 1970-1980 and After 1980. The website allows visitors to “walk” through the museum, clicking on individual pieces to see their details, including the artist’s name, the materials and the date.

There are also two temporary exhibitions, which are designed to change every two to three months. One is designed to feature the work of art collectors who are willing to share their private collections with the public in digital form, while the second features work by emerging young artists deemed worthy of exposure. These artists are selected by a committee of experts linked to the ministry, to whom artists can submit their portfolios for approval.

As well as the website, available worldwide, there is also an app that works for both iOS and Android phones and tablets. It may not be a physical museum, but the Virtual National Museum of Modern Arts is certainly a step in the right direction.