Google images goes to the museum.

"Sunday on La Grande Jatte," Georges Seurat

Google–information of purveyor of all types–has expanded into art. The Google Art Project is a database of over 32,000 high-quality images of art work from around the world. The New York Times calls it

“a broad, deep river of shared information, something like a lavishly illustrated art book fused with high-end open storage.”

And it is. It’s easy to spend a few minutes–or an hour, or longer, I can attest–feasting your eyes on paintings by Dutch masters or early Australian cave drawings. It seems, at first glance, like a wonderous and unending collection of all kinds of art for everyone to look at.

But the project still has has pretty big flaws. As the NYT points out, a number of important museums including the Louvre and the Prado haven’t signed on. The artists with work in the collection are alphabetized by first anne. The project certainly begs copyright issues, and there are whole schools of art and thought totally left out–notably 20th century Modernism. There’s not a single Picasso featured in the entire collection.

I’m really intrigued by The Google Art Project. I think has the potential to change how a lot of people access art (gone, it seems, are the days of the slide projector we used in high school art history class). But I’m hesitant to champion it just yet, because I can understand why a museum might hesitate to allow the treasures in their collection to become part of a Google endavor–Google is perhaps the greatest curator of all.

What do you think? Is this an egalitarian project bringing art to everyone with an internet connection? Or will Google wield undue influence on the art we, culturally, might want to consume?

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2 Comments on “Google images goes to the museum.”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    As long as Google continues to expand the collection and does not impose self-censorship or allow others to censor it, I think it is great.
    Not everyone has the time or money to travel to the museums of the world and this provides an opportunity for many to see what is out there.
    By the way, art is never consumed except by fire, mold and censorship. Food is consumed.

  2. Walker says:

    I think that we are headed inexorably toward a time when the contents of museums everywhere, art, history, whatever, are available online, and museums that resist the tendency will find that resistance is futile.

    I find little reason to worry the Google would somehow “wield undue influence.” They have every reason to be all inclusive, and no obvious reason to filter anything out.

    I do find the present form of the project awkward– not only are the collections organized by the artists’ first names, but the search function returns no results on a last name search– very odd, especially coming from Google! I’m surprised that they don’t have it clearly labeled as a beta release.

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