Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google: Fine Art

(image of the Tate Britain courtesy of

(Botticellis, iBirth of Venus, image courtesy of

Last week Google launched it's latest foray into global culture, Google Art Project. Much like Google Earth, Art Project will allow you, albeit virtually, to travel across the world to institutions such as the Tate London or Florence's Uffizi Gallery and walk amongst masterpieces while sitting on your couch. Upon entering the site, visitors can navigate among a list of museums, saving favorite pieces into a personal collection, and hop easily around from museum to museum, no ticket lines or crowds in sight.

Powered by YouTube, the tutorial videos are pretty impressive. One you have selected the museum you would like to explore, you are offered a floor plan, and zoom capability. Upon "approaching" a work of art, you are able to focus in on that piece a read viewing notes, i.e. have a very brief art history lesson that goes a little further than date, title and medium. As you spend time at a specific museum, there is a drop-down menu with shortcuts to other highlights of their permanent collection.

While visually stunning, and easy to navigate, Google Art Project leaves something to be desired. So much is lost on a flat computer screen. Yes, those of us who took art history learned in part by memorizing "flat" transparencies, but the hefty text books that supplemented those images enabled you to grasp them on a different level. The pixels on a screen diminish paint application that one would see up close, or at least have read about in great detail on a page, with a piece like Botticelli's Birth of Venus. That being said, this free webpage does make world class art accessible on some level, and it is fun for a few minutes to be transported across the Pond to London and "walk" through the Tate. We are always excited about encouraging art eduction, we just hope that in this digital age we live in, this doesn't take away from brick and mortar museums in the coming years.

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