An Animated Cabinet of Curiosities – The Best Art GIFs

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What happens when old paintings, photos, illustrations and posters which are available digitally are shared with digital artists to play with and create animated GIFs? Visit this animated cabinet of curiosities to find out. These weird and bizarre animations created from digitised cultural heritage content will surprise you, make you smile, maybe even give you a little shock. Here are the best art GIFs you have not seen!

1. A face swap without an app

best art history gifs: Kaiparoro tug-of-war team
The best art GIFs: Sintija Plāce from Liepāja, Latvia; source material: Kaiparoro tug-of-war team, Wairarapa Archive, DigitalNZ.

Face and head swapping has been taking over social media since late 2010. Here’s a cool artistic interpretation of this phenomenon. The original photo shows five men posing behind a rope, Kaiparoro tug-of-war team, winners of the open heavyweight championships held at Eketahuna 1931.

2. No more tears

Art history gifs:  A couple assemble their false body parts: false teeth, a glass eye and wigs,
The best art GIFs: Ronny Khalil from Astoria, NY, USA; source material: A couple assemble their false body parts: false teeth, a glass eye and wigs, Wellcome Collection/Europeana.

Or a guy ‘milking’ his eye. But what else could you create from source material with the title A couple assemble their false body parts: false teeth, a glass eye and wigs?

3. Finger-licking bad

art history gifs: Health Poster 'Danger don't spread disease'
The best art GIFs: Ilona Serbulenko from Odessa, Ukraine; source material: Health Poster ‘Danger don’t spread disease’, New Zealand Railway Poster – Hanmer Springs 1927, Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga.

Because we all need very clear and specific instructions. From the archives – New Zealand’s health poster collection. Produced in the 1950’s, matches the 2020 vibes perfectly.

4. Music makes the people come together

art history gifs: Hendrick Martensz Sorgh, The Lutenist
The best art GIFs. Source material: Hendrick Martensz Sorgh, The Lutenist, 1661, Rijksmuseum/Europeana.

When you’re so good that the guys from other paintings come to listen.

5. Quality time with a pet alligator

art history gifs: Taking my morning ride at Miami Florida
The best art GIFs: Rebecca Bakker from Miami, Florida; source material: Taking my morning ride at Miami, Florida, Florida International University Libraries, Digital Public Library of America.

A postcard featuring a little girl riding on the back of an alligator. Definitely deserved to be animated.

6. A monster in the mirror

The best art GIFs: Julien Brachhammer from Rouen, France; source material from Sorø Kunstmuseum and Den Hirschsprungske Samling/Europeana.
The best art GIFs: Julien Brachhammer from Rouen, France; source material from Sorø Kunstmuseum and Den Hirschsprungske Samling/Europeana.

Don’t look back!

7. It’s hard to find balance

The best art GIFs: Thomas Godfrin from Luxembourg; source material: Mattheus van Beveren, Virgin of the Apocalypse, Rijksmuseum/Europeana.
The best art GIFs: Thomas Godfrin from Luxembourg; source material: Mattheus van Beveren, Virgin of the Apocalypse, Rijksmuseum/Europeana.

Whether you’re Virgin of the Apocalypse or just a normal human being.

8. Shooting star in Ampurias: close encounters of space and time

The best art GIFs: Emilie Trebuchet from Tours, France; source material from Brigham Young University Library, Mountain West Digital Library, DPLA, Ajuntament de Girona, Sunnfjord Museum/ Europeana.
The best art GIFs: Emilie Trebuchet from Tours, France; source material from Brigham Young University Library, Mountain West Digital Library, Digital Public Library of America, Ajuntament de Girona, Sunnfjord Museum/Europeana.

The title says it all.

9. A skeleton dance

The best art GIFs: Erin Black from Cary, North Carolina, USA; source material from The British Library/Europeana.
The best art GIFs: Erin Black from Cary, North Carolina, USA; source material from The British Library/Europeana.

The best moves straight from a medieval manuscript.

10. Clothes swap

The best art GIFs: Yuelan Liu from Belgium; source material from Norsk Folkemuseum via Arts Council Norway/Europeana.
The best art GIFs: Yuelan Liu from Belgium; source material from Norsk Folkemuseum via Arts Council Norway/Europeana.

Way before TikTok!

Curious, confused, amused? For more fun, weird, disturbing and creative animated gifs, check out GIF IT UP, the annual contest for the most creative reuse of digitised cultural heritage material.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE? The competition is open to people of all ages, professionals and amateurs alike. Choose from among millions of public domain works from Europeana partners, create your GIF and submit your entry!

WHAT ARE THE PRIZES? You can win online art history courses from DailyArt and Red Bubble gift cards. There will be a special category for the best GIF & runners-up, 1st time GIF makers, children & teens (below 18) and a bonus category for GIPHY backdrops. Moreover, GIF IT UP has its own GIPHY Channel that exposes the participants’ creations to millions.


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An Animated Cabinet of Curiosities – The Best Art GIFs was first posted on October 26, 2020 at 5:00 am.
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