(Recreating) Art in the Times of Corona - The Covid Classics Instagram Account

April 8, 2020

We are living in quite a strange moment. Even those among us who are used to being in their homes a lot can’t help but feeling trapped, frustrated, bored.

In ordinary times, art lovers would perhaps go see an exhibition, visit a museum collection, or attend an artist talk - all of which, granted, they can now get in their own living room, since we have so many choices as to what to watch, read, listen to.

But these four roommates had a different idea of what to do with their time in quarantine - what if they were to (re)make art in their own apartment?

Indeed, one of the most popular Instagram accounts since the coronavirus crisis started, Covid Classics introduces us to art on a different level. Using only the props found in the house and themselves, they recreate works from art history: some of the examples include Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat, and the legendary paintings such as American Gothic by Grant Wood, and Whistler’s Mother. Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring gets a fun twist, while Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son certainly isn’t what we expect.

While recreating artworks isn’t a novelty, it surely took off during the pandemic, helped by the fact that the Rijksmuseum and The Getty Museum both invited their followers to submit their own interpretations and depictions of famous art.

Covid Classics, however, are a story in their own right, making our gloomy days a bit brighter with their creations and behind-the-scenes imagery.

I talk to the four roommates about their process, and how it all came to be.

Making of Covid Classics

Widewalls: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are the four quarantined roommates?

Covid Classics: Sam (32) is an unemployed bartender and writer, Jeannette (30) is an architect, Max (31) owns an escape room company, Cary (29) works for an environmental non-profit. We've all lived together before in some combination, and have lived in our current house since last year.

Widewalls: Would I assume correctly that at least one of you is an art historian? Or how else do you land on which artwork to feature?

CC: None of us are! We're just geeks. We started with paintings that seemed obvious or "doable," but in the last three weeks we've developed our skills to where we'll take certain risks—and still nail it! Most days we're not sure what to shoot until it's time to shoot. We're constantly taking suggestions from friends and followers.

Widewalls: How do you do for the props?

CC: All of the props, including clothes, hats, repurposed furniture and drapes and everything else, are what we had on hand when the lockdown started. You can improvise a lot with duct tape. Yarn can be turned into beards. Pastel crayons are good for eye shadow. And yes, we do have a plastic skull and a rubber baby doll. Do you not?

Widewalls: Do you have a favorite recreated artwork so far?

CC: We're most proud of our St. Jerome. Normally we try to capture an impression of a painting, not make a convincing forgery. But we nailed that one.

Widewalls: Which one was the biggest challenge until now?

CC: Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. There's so many fine details in Van Gogh and so much of the painting's force and presence comes from its colors. Color, it turns out, we cannot recreate in our apartment.

Widewalls: Did you/will you send your creations to The Getty?

CC: It's fun to see how many people worldwide are making their own recreations! But we've been doing our own thing since the start and don't have any plans to reach out (yet).

Widewalls: What are some future artworks we can expect?

CC: That's a secret even to ourselves.