On February 1, Google unveiled a new feature called Art Project, which allows users to visit and explore some of the world’s most acclaimed museums, including the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and the National Gallery in London. Art Project uses street view technology, first introduced with Google Maps, that lets the users “walk” around museums and galleries that they otherwise might not be able to visit. If a user sees a work of art that really catches his or her eye, he or she can zoom in to a high-resolution photo of it, read more info about the artist, find more works by that artist, and watch related YouTube videos. Art Project also allows its users to create their own collection, where they can to save specific views of their favorite works, add comments, and share with friends and family.
The project is an innovative way to expand viewership for prestigious museums and galleries, especially when the users cannot jet off to Madrid to visit the Museo Reina Sofia whenever they want to. Although Google has allowed for users to finally see up-close works from a huge variety of old masters like James McNeill Whistler, Vincent Van Gogh, Gustave Courbet, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, and Giotto, it cannot replicate the experience of seeing the great works in person. When zooming in to a high- resolution photograph of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with Cypresses” showcased at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the painterly strokes depicted don’t measure up to the thickness, weight and texture that would be visible to the human eye. Also, in Art View, Google’s new feature displays all the works in similar dimensions. The pieces are not compared, but all held on the same scale. This is not representative of the museum experience, in which a viewer can be overwhelmed with the grand scale of work.
Although Google Art Project cannot absolutely replicate the museum-going experience, it does increase an audience for the art world. It teaches people who have never gone through a gallery or museum about the origins and evolution of art through depictions of crucial works of art, and hopefully sparks their interest in such a way that they are inspired to visit their own local museums. So, go check out Google’s Art Project, and when you are done wandering around the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin, come experience the real thing at the Georgia Museum of Art!