Google has already devoted considerable resources to photographing the world’s most beautiful, significant, and remote landmarks through Google Street View. In recent years, the company has branched out from photographing the outdoors to point its cameras toward the interiors of cultural institutions like the Guggenheim Museum, giving anyone with a web connection access to great works of art. In 2011, the Google Art Project made digitized artworks from museums all over the world available in high resolution.
Now, the company has rolled out a one-stop hub for art education on the web called Google Arts & Culture. The expansive app—which Co.Design calls better than a trip to the Louvre—makes a massive archive of paintings and information easily navigable.
You can study certain types of art in a timeline that dates back thousands of years—cats in art is a great topic to start with—or explore how artists use the color blue in paper art. You can explore the site through the lens of different artists, mediums, art movements, historical events, historical figures (so you can view art related to Abraham Lincoln or Mao Zedong), locations, or the institutions that hold the pieces.
Online exhibits from Google’s partner institutions put the work on display in context and expand on their themes. And every day, the site will feature a blog about some random subject in art. Today’s topic: “9 Powerful Men in Heels.” If that’s not enough, you can simply view the work as it hangs on the walls, visiting the Paris Opera or the Hirschsprung Collection in Copenhagen or the National Academy Museum in New York through Google Street View.
The project also helps users study art in the physical world. If you go to one of a few select museums— London's Dulwich Picture Gallery, Australia's Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., for now—you can point your phone's camera at a painting, and the Art Recognizer will identify it for you and take you to the work's home in the app so you can learn more about it.
It's the artificial intelligence version of digital engagement apps museums are already building, like the curator-run Q&A app ASK Brooklyn Museum. As Google expands its recognition software to more institutes around the world, it might even compete with museums' own resource-intensive in-house apps. But for now, the more information a museum visitor has at her disposal, the better.
Google Arts & Culture is available on the web as well as an app for Android and iOS.
All images via Google Arts & Culture
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