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Google Art Project

Almost four years after launching its controversial Street View, in which panoramic views of real streets from around the world are displayed online, Google has brought its technology indoors - this time, to some of the world's top museums, where visitors to the Google Art Project can take a virtual tour of institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin or The Tate Britain in London, viewing hundreds of art works up close and personal, at zoom levels more sophisticated than the human eye.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

18 months in the making, the Google Art Project has collaborated with 17 museums from around the world to bring access to 385 rooms and more than 1,000 artworks. These have been photographed in super high-resolution, with each image containing approximately seven billion pixels. The results are quite remarkable with visitors to the Google Art Project able to see details in pictures such as Édouard Manet's ‘Young Lady', Van Gogh's ‘Sunflowers' or Sandro Botticelli's ‘The Birth of Venus' that were previously impossible to see with the naked eye.

Not all artworks from the museums featured are available to be seen on the Google Art Project and this may irk some, who might feel that some movements or artists have been given precedence over others in the selection process, which they have. Of course, if every single painting could be seen uninterrupted and at such a high resolution in the privacy of one's own home, some might not feel it necessary to ever visit these museums - and, as critics of the Art Project have been keen to point out, there is no substitute for seeing such pieces in the flesh.

DEMOCTRATISING FORCE

As it is, Google has plans to keep expanding its Art Project with new museums, galleries and paintings and hopes that the project will encourage and inspire people to visit museums and appreciate the world's artistic heritage. In giving such unprecedented access to the often exclusive world of Fine Art, Google has once again made a fine example of the democratising role that technology can play in society. It should be congratulated.

3 February 2011

2013