Understanding Google Art Project

Estefanía Tocado



As Brian Arthur asserts, an invention is a new combination of prior art (9).  By implementing and hybridizing existing software and relying on combinatorial modes and systems of relations such as Google Street View, Picassa, and Giga-pixel high resolution photographs, the Google Art project launched its portal in 2011.  The technical architecture was based on existing software which had been implemented with specific purposes, such as in the artwork view service Google Scholar and YouTube, to allow the user to find further information on a specific artist, collection, or paintings of a given time period (Wikipedia).  Amid Sood, the head of the Google Art Project, said that the idea of granting the opportunity to millions of people to have access to a large number of prestigious museums in the world was what first motivated him.  As he has asserted, growing up in India made it difficult to be able to visit institutional museums if you were not living close to a cultural center or city.


The project first relied on a virtual gallery tour, a strategy long used by institutional museums to attract visitors to their home pages.  Second, the project created the artwork view, another idea already proposed by Malraux and his imaginary museum.  These high resolution pictures of pieces of art which allow the viewer to see magnified details has also been promoted by respected museums that sold collections of such pictures at the museum stores or other locations.  Third, the virtual user was given the chance to create its own artwork collection, replacing the curating work done by the institutional museum.  In this way Google Art Project has become a meta-museum and interface that remediates the symbolic value attributed to the piece of art to exclusively adjust to the personal needs of a virtual visitor.  By promoting digital reproducibility and eradicating the idea of the aura attributed by Walter Benjamin to the piece of art, Google Art project also dispossesses it, to some extent, of the cultural and national embedded value (this last would be in conflict with Malraux’s view of the museum as a space for promoting national identity).

A second stage of the project has the goal of becoming an educational instrument, creating videos and resources for teachers and students as well as video and audio content for their virtual tours (Wikipedia).  The user can make more restricted and detailed searches and filter more information than when it was first started thanks to the slideshow format, the table of contents divided by collections, artists, and artworks, and the customized user gallery.  The main table of contents also allows the user to tweet, post on Facebook, email, or share on Google+ any of the works of art instantly promoting a vision of the Google Art Project as a social interface.  Other improvements made recently are a major redesign with faster navigation and new search features that make it easier to filter data, artworks, and related events.  Also, the project has bought together new partners adding up to 40,000 pieces of art and about 250 museums in more than 40 countries (Lardinois).  Many of the previous complaints regarding the difficulties in searching artwork or artists have been addressed in this last makeover.  However, other concerns that still exist are the content selection, the intended audience, or security risks for worldwide museums (Wikipedia).  The project team continues to find solutions for these issues and implements further processes to contribute to the networking of their platform.  By hybridizing and granting access to a wider interrelated network of systems, the project seeks to improve and expand the Google Art Project experience and the users authority over the use of the museum not only as a educational ground but also as a social interface.

   Works Cited

Arthur, Brian. The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. NY: Free Press, 2009.

Lardinois, Frederic. “Google Art Project Gets a Redesign With Improved Navigation And Search Tools.” Technical Crunch. 10 June 2013. Web. 13 April 2014.

Sood, Amit. “Building a Museum of Museums on the Web.” TED. March 2011.Web. 13 April 2014.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Google Art Project.”Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.Web. 14 April 2014.