Arment Dietrich

The Google Art Project, Free Access to Museums

By: Arment Dietrich | February 2, 2011 | 

While most of the Midwest works from home today, I’m going to tour the Tate Britain in London, the Museum Kampa in Prague, then maybe putz around at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian in D.C., and I might end my journey with the MoMA here in NYC.

Google did it again.  They’ve opened the doors for people like me (art-lovers-with-no-money-to-travel) to explore some of the world’s most famous museums first hand just by visiting the Google Art Project.  You’ve probably noticed Google’s homepage has six images below the search with a brief title not even intriguing enough to click on, but I urge you to click. 

It started with Google employees sharing a love for art.  Using the same technology as Google street view, you can tour and navigate room to room within a variety of museums across the globe.

According to the director of the project, “artworks were documented using an extremely high resolution technology, “gigapixel,” which allows people to zoom into the images to see detailed brush strokes and the subtlety of each artist. Each of these images contains around seven billion pixels—that’s around 1,000 times more detailed than your average digital camera.”

Google brought street view indoors.  Now, within an hour I can see the height of the Eiffel Tower, check out the Museum of Modern Art, tour the vineyards of Napa, and view The Birth of Venus like no text book has shown me before.   (You can even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.)  Interested yet?

Besides my amusement, this changes the way professors teach.  I can only imagine how different my art history class would have been with this technology.

What do you think is going to be next?  Or better yet, what do you want Google to tackle next?

  • DamianDayton

    I grew up loving art. I think there is nothing that can tell you about an artist as much as standing in front of a canvas. This project is really quite amazing, I can take a virtual tour of one of my favorite museums in Madrid (Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza) without leaving home.

    One thing this project lacks though, is distance. There is an appropriate viewing distance to appreciate a work of art, a distance that is not in the details. When you see a Rothko, it’s not just squares of colors, it is the size of the work and how it relates to you that is most impressive. Monet’s impressions are best caught from a few feet away and Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” is impressive from 20 feet away.

    So I guess what I am saying is that this project is great, and amazing and a fine opportunity to study brushstroke, but we still get a reason to go to the museum.

  • I haven’t had a chance to really check out the Google Art Project yet, but the concept is great. I’d like to see this get expanded. Imagine being able to see the Louvre with this project. You’d need at least a day to see the entire thing, but you could view it at your leisure if Google added it to its collection.

  • HowieSPM

    I think it is really cool to have the street view technology used this way. Quality of the imagery isn’t perfect and I am having trouble with the controls. But hey I am not in Germany so I can complain! Plus it’s free!

    I remember when they had this huge Picasso exhibit from the Museum of Modern Art come to LA. We had to pay a $10 surcharge to see this exhibit. Being from NY I got my friends all excited. Only to see they left his most important works on the walls back in NY. Would of been nice to show them to my friends. 4 days later I was in NY for my sisters wedding and went to the MoMA and was looking at the people viewing the Picasso’s and wanting to scream how lucky they were that NY ripped off LA! Because those works shouldn’t be there! 8)

    Thanks for sharing Molli!

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