If you’ve been following Google news lately, you’ve no doubt heard the announcement of their futuristic augmented reality product, Google Glass, but less touted and equally impressive has been a major expansion of the Google Art Project. Though launched over a year ago, the Google Art Project has gone largely unnoticed until this past month. For the uninitiated, the Google Art Project is a virtual gallery containing detailed scans of some of history’s greatest works of art. Short of traveling across the world or catching some of the pieces on tour, this may be the best way to experience these astonishing works of art. In some ways it may even be better. These are not scans of reproductions, but high-resolution photographs of the actual works of art, showing a stunning level of detail. Google’s art gallery allows you to zoom in close enough to see the individual brush strokes and the actual texture of the canvas, an activity that would earn you an escort out of the museum were you to try to do it in person.
The works on display are not limited to paintings; you can browse over 134 collections containing over 32,000 paintings, photographs, ancient statues, pieces of pottery, and architectural works. It’s easy to spend hours marveling over the seemingly endless collection Google has amassed; thankfully, the Google Art Project provides several ways to sift through the heap, allowing you to search for individual works or browse by artist, collection, and medium. You can also create your own virtual gallery of items you find particularly inspiring and want to revisit later. Once you’ve created a gallery, you can choose to share it with other users via Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, as well as browse galleries that other users have created. If you’re partial to works from a particular country or region, you can use the interactive world map feature to explore museums and collections from any of the over 40 countries currently involved with the project.
If all this still leaves you missing the feel of walking the hallowed corridors of the world’s finest museums, you can do that as well. The Google are projects features 385 interactive rooms and 6000 panoramas, allowing you to browse many of the collections via a virtual tour. The photos in this mode are admittedly lacking in detail, but it is a nice feature if you’ve ever wanted to visit the Met or the Acropolis museum but never got the chance.
While the sheer breadth of selection in the Google Art Project borders on staggering, there are a few surprising omissions from their catalogue. Famous works like the Mona Lisa and Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory are sadly nowhere to be found. Also, there are few holdouts among the world’s prominent museums that for various reasons choose not to participate (the Louvre, the Prado, etc.). That said, what is there is still more than enough to keep even the most voracious art hound sated for a long time. You can see it for yourself at www.google.com/artproject.
By: Daniel Simmons