Explore works of art through Google's newest project

April 4, 2012 5:16:44 PM PDT
The next time you're goofing off online, you could go to Facebook, Twitter, or a museum. You can now experience fine art from all over the world with just a mouse click.

On a busy day, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art sees thousands of visitors. But now, millions of people will be able to look at a painting by Joan Brown or Clyfford Still, and two dozen of the museum's other works, all from the comfort of their own laptops.

"Yes, the technology is amazing, but it is really about accessibility of the greatest works of art across our world," said President of Google Margo Georgiadis.

Google has launched what it calls "The Art Project" and SF MOMA is one of a whole catalog of museums that have posted a piece their collections in this online gallery of super high-resolution images.

"What we've really captured is kind of the wide range of the kind of art that SF MOMA collects as an institution," said Chad Coerver, the SF MOMA chief content officer.

Coerver says the museum focused on art that represents the Bay Area, knowing it'll be seen by people all over the world.

"Something on the order of 20 million visitors, and so what you're gaining as an institution that you could never gain off your own site. It's that degree of exposure," said Coerver.

The goal of the project is not just to let people see the art, but to get up close and personal with the texture and the individual brush strokes. In some cases, much closer than you could even get in the gallery.

"What he does for example with shiny surfaces like chrome is astonishing," said Coerver.

Oil paintings, like those from Robert Bechtel, are captured specifically to show their texture. Some photographs can be magnified larger than life size.

"The Art Project gives you this ability to go extraordinarily deep into the photograph and to really capture the expressions of the protagonists of the photograph," said Coerver.

And in some cases, you can go deep into the mind of the artist.

"We have developed multimedia content around the artworks, interviews with the artists, explanations of the artwork, questions about why the artist made it and what their inspiration was," said Coerver.

Though it won't replace the experience of standing in front of a painting that's five feet wide, Coerver says just maybe, it'll enhance it.

"Not necessarily the same experience, as what you're getting in the galleries, but a different kind of experience that still enriches your understanding of the artwork," said Coerver.

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