Since the beginning of 2011 we have looked at posts on interactive online art galleries, the possibility of 3D art catalogues and the YouTube Play project. It was only a matter of time until internet giant Google brought us an art project. But is it really useful?


The Google Art Project's homepage in October 2011.

Working for Google or for any large global corporation may have its pros and cons, but one thing is for certain: Google is one of the top global employers for smart young people with initiative and good ideas. Google actually draws many of its ground-breaking and revolutionary applications from allowing its staff to explore, develop and test out ideas that could one day change the way that many millions of internet users around the world will do things. And they can afford to experiment.

Virtual tours through leading museums

The Google Art Project is one of the company’s latest Internet applications. Seventeen high calibre museums from nine countries have contributed a selection of masterpieces and a Google Maps Street View-style glimpse of some of their exhibition spaces. Users move around in the same fashion as you would in Maps and, with a mouse click, are able to zoom in on selected works of art. A Visitor Guide with two videos and an FAQ-Section helps the user to move around and to make the best use of the website.


Vincent van Gogh, 'The Starry Night', MoMA, New York


A 'street-view' style navigation through the Museum of Modern Art, New York

10 billion pixels: Zoom until your finger hurts

A useful feature is the Artwork View, where users can “discover featured artworks at high resolution and use the custom viewer to zoom into paintings. Expanding the info panel allows you to read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos.” The artworks that have been authorised for Artwork View by the museums have been scanned to a resolution of up to 10 billion pixels, which allows the user to zoom in at stunning detail.

“Create an Artwork Collection” allows the user to “to save specific views of any of the 1000+ artworks” and build a personalised collection with comments that can be addressed to each painting. And through a function characteristic of this age of real-time interaction through online social media, the entire collection can be easily shared with friends and family.

No art museums from Asia involved… yet

At this time, the museums that have joined the Google Art Project are:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC – USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC – USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC – USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC – USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid – Spain
  • Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid – Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague – Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London – UK
  • Palace of Versailles – France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg – Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow – Russia
  • Tate Britain, London – UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence – Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands

More institutions are said to join the project soon. Click here for a link to a presentation of the Google Art Project by project leader Amit Sood.


Sandro Botticelli, 'Pallas and the Centaur', Uffizi Firenze

To answer the question of what the use of Google Art Project is with the words of Sood: “This project is not about replicating the experience of visiting a museum. It is to supplement it.”

Have you tried out Google Art Project? What was your experience? Share your thoughts with us and our readers by leaving a comment below.


Related Topics: art education, art and the Internet, museum collections, museums

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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