kulcha online by Google (yr frenemy)

Since there has been recent talk of culture here at the ‘baa among the commentariat, seemed right to point to another sea of imagery, another pond open for immersion. Google and their streetview technology provide hi-def images and user-directed travel with a number of the world’s well known art galleries.

Google’s Art Project aims to be an immersive online cultural museum, providing free virtual tours around 385 rooms from17 of the world’s major institutions, including the Museo Reina Sofia, the Tate, the New York Met,  and the Ufizzi in Florence.

Fair comment has been directed at the enterprise, saying the information about the background and context of works is thin or missing. To be fair the museums have total control on what they provided and opted to provide this or not, as a condition of partnering. Also, that only a few key pieces are in high-res at the moment, the approach  misses these museums’ unseen archives and history,  instead offering up a lesser version of a walking tour of the gallery. This project, funded entirely by Google, for some feels more like an advert for the internet giant than for the museums themselves.

Maybe they should take a leaf from MoMA‘s comprehensive digital modern art archive with images of 34,000 works – the entire MoMA collection, including quality reproductions of sketches, photographs and ephemera that aren’t displayed in the galleries.

Not to mention Europeana. Funded by the EC, the site has already has 15 million items, from maps to music, donated by institutions from the British Library to the Louvre. They are aiming to have “all public domain masterpieces” in Europe accessible by 2016.


Nevertheless, there are some treasures here…

click for larger image

These paintings of white-capped waves and clouds of gold and silver surrounding islands with pine trees is one of only six pairs in existence by the renowned painter Tawaraya Sotatsu.  From the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian – check the high-res image on the Google’s Art Project to see just how good it is..