After years of pouring over tiny photographs of artwork in books, this project instigated by Google, has to be the art lovers dream. Initially the project started with only 17 partners in 9 countries but this has totally changed this year, with a dramatic jump up to 151 partners across 40 countries. This leap forward with participating museums and artists is understandable. The Internet is a rich and dynamic realm to show off both the art and the museum at the same time. As with all skilfully crafted web projects, the end result is sublimely immersive and totally addictive, as art you may never have searched for independently, is presented to the user, allowing them to explore the correlating art period, artist or museum.
To many, this is a natural progression for the technology behind Google Maps and Google Earth. The website utilises the ‘Street View’ understanding we have, when using Google Maps and allows us to literally walk around the museum in the same way as when virtually walking around at street level in the UK. It also allows us to have an intimate understanding of a painting, unparalleled until now. Some of the images are only high resolution but the majority appear to use the Street View/gigapixel technology Google does so well.
In total, there are 30,000 pieces of artwork or sculpture to peruse. Navigating around the site is at the hands of the user, as there are a few ways to experience the art encapsulated within this site. There is a slideshow view, if you want to quickly see artwork, followed by the ability to browse by Artist name, the collection, the artwork, the type of art, the country, city or user’s own gallery. If you wish to look at a specific artist, there are then further options to look at either all artwork by this artist on the site and then to also pull in other artwork from the same period. I am sure there are many history of art students who will find this feature invaluable when typing up homework projects.
To allow the user further control and participation, Google have set up an area for the user to create their own galleries, with their favourite artwork on the site. This will require a Google mail account and this further links into Google+ and Hangouts by allowing these saved User Galleries to be uploaded to these areas, along with sharing on YouTube too.
When studying a specific piece of art, the first bit exploring the user is likely to do, is click into the painting until you are at brushstroke level. It is every bit as fascinating as you can imagine, seeing the tiny detail these artists replicate onto canvas. A new level of appreciation is certainly warranted. It is then every bit delightful to click the museum view icon and see the genuine painting or sculpture situated in the museum it resides in. I had a good look at the physical engravings on the ‘Piedra del Sol (1250 – 1500) at the Museo Nacional de Anthroplogia in Mexico and then I jumped into museum view to have a look at how it sits with the other exhibits on that floor of the museum. This gives me a feeling of visiting the museum without even leaving my desk and it is unlikely in my lifetime I will ever visit the amount of museums listed on this site. As you walk around the virtual museum, any item available within the Google Art Project site has a plus symbol next to it, allowing you to click and return to explore the artefact in detail.
Google have even added an area for people who are in the field of education. There are handy sections with ready-made areas to test students on called ‘Look Like an Expert’ and then there is a DIY area, where quality suggestions are made on topics for teachers to develop galleries to engender talking points and vast understandings of artwork throughout the ages. Unfortunately, all the images on the Google Art Project are copyright protected, although within the educational area, there is a resource section and within those websites, there are a number of sites with material available for you to use your printer and print off onto office paper or specialist glossy paper for a smart effect.
Overall, this is an impressive site with a huge amount of beautiful imagery. Why not have a go at saving images into your gallery and share it with your friends to see how they feel about the art that talks to you. You are guaranteed they will see a side of you, they were probably unaware of until now.