Where Should Google Art Project Go?

by | Aug 31, 2015

Google Art Project is one of my favorite editions of Google projects; I find it the most valuable and the most exciting. The Google Art Project was launched in 2011 and uses the “street view” technology to continually scan and document the great museum artworks from around the world. It allows a 360-degree view of the museum space and the artworks inside. It’s a great and important project –really and truly. The opportunities and possibilities with this on-demand art from the best museums in the world are incredible.

The Google Art Project offers a lot to the “visitors.” The platform increases accessibility to the collection of artworks within each museum. The visitor can walk virtually, stand in front of the most famous artworks in the world, and view them in detail through high-resolution photos. Visitors can also enjoy the new 3D representation of Viewable Artifacts, which allows the visitor to zoom in and rotate each piece to get an up-close and personal view. Basically, you can visit every museum in the world without leaving your house.

The platform is raising interesting uses for the Google Art Project. One I mentioned in a previous post is to teach critical thinking to young students. Others are theme exhibitions, such as The Soul of Flamenco, available only on the platform, which combines videos, text, photos, and more – a very rich experience.

Besides the virtual view and the high-resolution photo of the artworks, the current platform provides the visitors with basic details and links to similar works to the one they are currently watching. I think all of this is a great start, yet I believe the current offering is good for people that are familiar with the art, mostly professionals from the art world: art historians, philosophers, artists, curators, etc. The general public will gain little from only viewing these photos. Why do I believe this? Because art can be understood in its context, when it has references and explanations, this can widen one’s knowledge. Like Aldous Huxley, the English writer, once said, “The more you know, the more you see,” and I think this is where Google Art Project can come into play – not only allowing access to the visuals (images) of the artwork but also allowing access to education.

Google Art Project I believe has the ability to become a great source for those who are interested in learning art and don’t necessarily want to attend art school. Autodidact people. So for those who interested in learning art by themselves, how can Google Art Project have more of an educational role?

I have one suggestion. As Google already has access to great information resources, especially texts (via Google Search) and videos (via YouTube) – why not use them? The role of text in art is an important one, especially in contemporary art; its role is to bridge between the artwork and the viewer because of the complexity of art. Artworks incorporate theoretical and historical connections that many times can be understood by intermediates that assist in getting the most of the exhibition. So if I think about the power of Google as a search engine to deliver the best results, why not using it to link artworks to few professional explanations, art critiques, and even a short YouTube video? Then the general public can gain more than just viewing the artwork – it can learn and educate itself. Let me give you an example.

And for videos, the opportunities are tremendous. I live in Madrid, the home of two of the most well-known museums in the world – Reina Sofia and Prado. Reina Sofia is home to some of the most important artworks by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, one example being the Guernica. Although Picasso, is a well-known artist, how many people really understand his work? How many people can take the time to understand it and to put it into perspective?

When I have guests heading to Reina Sofia to see the famous (and impressive!) Guernica, I always send them the link to the video below – it’s 20 minutes that will change their whole experience, it changed mine that’s for sure. So imagine how great it can be to browse the Google Art Project before your visit – not only will you have the opportunity to see the artwork, BUT you will also have access to the general knowledge and context that will help to understand the work of art better.. This is where the Google Art Project can make a real difference to the general public, art world and the art itself.

If I want to take it one step further, let’s think about creating a curated education art program via the Google Art Project. These can be in collaboration with online course providers such as Coursera or Lynda. I think this can also be done independently of existing YouTube videos. Let’s think for a moment about someone who is not familiar with modern art at all. A great way to get familiar with it is to watch The Shock of the New that was written and presented by famous art critic Robert Hughes in the ’80s. This documentary TV series describes and explains the development of modern art – All episodes are available on YouTube, so why not link these YouTube Episodes to existing artworks in the Google Art Project from the different periods presented in the series?

Another option to consider is allowing access to physical, site-specific artworks – public installations or land art for example. Artworks like the Spiral Jetty by the American sculptor Robert Smithson, The Lightning Field by Walter De Maria, or Donald Judd’s private living and working spaces in Marfa, Texas, USA. Another unique place on my wish list of places to visit is the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. This Chapel was not only specifically designed for Rothko’s works, it also includes music written by Morton Feldman, an American composer who was inspired by Rothko’s work. Now think about using your Google Glass with earphones, logging onto your wish-list sites specific artworks on the Google Art Project, selecting the Rothko Chapel, and tour the chapel right from your living room, while listening to Feldman’s music – how crazy would that be?? This is where virtual reality will increase your overall art experience!

I believe that Google Art Project could also help to increase the volume of people that visit museums. Museums could allow pre-access to an exhibition so that the audience can view the exhibition online, gaining better knowledge of the artwork itself therein leading to the higher probability that they will attend the exhibition.

Museums have the common challenge of attracting a younger audience. Research studies show that museums have the stereotype of boring and dictating. In addition, the rise of social media has changed the way young people engage with museums. According to research done by James Chung (Denver Art Museum, Creativity, Community and a Dose of the Unexpected, Denver Art Museum, Denver, 2011), young people desire jointly constructed knowledge, instead of traditional knowledge museums offer. Now Google is part of the new generation where information is free and anyone can contribute and add more details. Why not using Google Art Project to break the stereotypical view of museums by allowing audiences and especially the younger ones to have pre-access to the upcoming exhibitions. This way they will have access to the “institutional” knowledge, and can also engage in conversation with other online “viewers”. Google Art Project has already made steps towards this type of access by having Douglas Coupland’s exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery accessible on the platform. In this interactive walk-through the viewer can walk through the exhibition – what differentiates it from the other museum walk-through is that this is not a permanent collection – this is a retrospective exhibition that was exhibited from May until September 2014. I believe this is part of the future for the Google Art Project. Bringing upcoming exhibitions online which will include education and social interaction.  I believe people would like even more access to the exhibit (I wish they would have done it for Agnes Martin’s retrospective currently at the Tate Modern until October 2015).

Have your own ideas? How do you want to use Google Art Project? Share it by sending an email.


Read more about the intersection of art and business in our blog

Interested in bringing this perspective into your own company? Check out The Artian’s trainings!


What can we create together?