Google Art Project: Art and Museums in the Digital Age.

What is art?  Art is a human representation of feelings and experiences.  Art is also historical and sociological, people through out the ages have represented various “snapshots” of the real world for many, many years using different representations such as paintings or sculptures.


Video: Leon Botstein asks “What is Art?”.

Art has always found a home within the walls of a Museum.  In there, people can walk the halls of a building and marvel at the works of the American Painters or ponder at the colors used by impressionist or post-impressionist artists.   Wikipedia defines Museums as “Institutions that care for (conserve) a collection of artifacts and other objects of scientific, artistic, cultural, or historical importance and make them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary.” 

Google, one of the new juggernauts in technology has decided to challenge the conception that people may have about a museum by introducing a new application: “The Google Art Project”.  By using it’s Google Street View Technology, they are giving the user the opportunity to visit art museums from all over the world as well as seeing different pieces of artwork up close.


With the use of this technology, Google can encode all the information about the museums surroundings and send it through cyberspace where a teenager from Australia can visit and feel the experience of going into the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

This technology is using code in the form of images to reproduce works of art and deliver them to a computer that will probably be miles away.  When artistic objects are separated both from conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which aesthetic theory deals. (Dewey, 2)

Art as a digital reproduction loses its emotional impact.  You cannot possibly sense what the painter tried to communicate with a computer acting as a barrier between you and the art.  But as stated by Malraux in “The Imaginary Museum”:   if the masses are not going to art, the fatal nature of technologies means that art is going to the masses.



Museums are meant to be experienced and enjoyed,  people specialized in different areas have organized the artwork following a detailed structure, there is lightning and even sound to affect the mood.  All of this can’t be possibly enjoyed through a computer.

Google’s intentions of knowledge democratization and sharing this so it can be enjoyed are noble and commendable.  But projects like this are making people lose the ability to enjoy, analyze and even further discuss things.  People  just want to look, and in this way we appear to be losing traction in the evolution of the “museum” and its critical place in shaping our apprehension of art, imaginary of otherwise. (Magnuson, Virtual Museums)

Van Gogh by Numbers

Video: Scene from the movie “Mona Lisa Smile”

Art works and cultural images are now being made to be reproduced; the most reproducible ones enter the marketplace (Irvine, 6)  Art work is losing its uniqueness in exchange for accessibility,  living in a digital world makes us want all kinds of information in accelerated pace and sometimes we don’t enjoy looking at the innate beauty of things.

The possibility of finding anything is just a few keystrokes and a Google Search away so we must seriously consider if the tools of the digital age are being used wisely.  Is it more important to gain quick access to any piece of artwork than the artwork itself?

Are we so eager to digitize our very own existence that we are searching for ways to narrow existential gaps without consideration on how we are really making them wider?

Living a full live from the comfort of tour own living room.  Museums are cultural institutions that should be preserved and taken care of.  They are small universes that are able to take us to  different worlds and historical places and as such should be a mean to feed the user’s imagination not some collection of pixels stored far, far away.


Dewey, John. Art as experience. Penguin, 2005.

Wikipedia “Museum”

Irvine, Martin “Mediation and Representation: Plato to Baudrillard and Digital Media.”

André Malraux, “La Musée Imaginaire (The Imaginary Museum)”.

Emily Magnuson “Virtual Museums”