Google Puts Over 57,000 Works of Art on the Web

dali google art project

In its art preser­va­tion­ist wing, the Cul­tur­al Insti­tute, Google hous­es an enor­mous dig­i­tal col­lec­tion of art­work span­ning cen­turies and con­ti­nents in what it calls the Art Project. Google’s col­lec­tion, writes Drue Katao­ka at Wired, is part of a “big deal […] it sig­nals a broad­er, emerg­ing ‘open con­tent’ art move­ment.” “Besides the Get­ty,” Katao­ka notes, this move­ment to dig­i­tize fine art col­lec­tions includes efforts by “Los Ange­les’ LACMA… as well as D.C.’s Nation­al Gallery of Art, the Dal­las Muse­um of Art, Baltimore’s Wal­ters Art Muse­um, and the Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Art Gallery. And Google. Yes, Google.” Google is work­ing hard to defuse this “yes, Google” reac­tion, post­ing fre­quent updates to its col­lec­tion, already a mag­nif­i­cent phe­nom­e­non: “Imag­ine see­ing an image of the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Breuegel the Elder,” writes Katao­ka, “or Vin­cent van Gogh’s Iris­es, in high res­o­lu­tion.” Now, you can, thanks to Google’s aston­ish­ing­ly vast dig­i­tal archive.

In the Art Project, you can stroll on over to Por­tu­gal’s Museu do Cara­mu­lo, for exam­ple, which Google describes as “an unusu­al muse­um in a small town” off the beat­en path. There, you can see this macabre 1947 Picas­so still life or this 1954 Sal­vador Dali por­trait of a Roman horse­man in Iberia (above). Then head over to the oth­er side of the world, where the Adachi Muse­um of Art in Japan con­tains 165,000 square meters of Japan­ese gar­den: “The Dry Land­scape Gar­den, The White Grav­el and Pine Gar­den, the Moss Gar­den, and The Pond Gar­den.” It also fea­tures gor­geous paint­ings like Yokoya­ma Taikan’s 1931 Autumn Leaves and Hishi­da Shun­so’s adorable 1906 Cat and Plum Blos­soms. Dozens of small­er col­lec­tions like these sit com­fort­ably along­side such exten­sive and well-known col­lec­tions as New York’s MoMA and Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and Flo­rence’s Uffizi. See a tiny sam­pler of the Art Project in the video teas­er above.


Google’s col­lec­tion has great­ly expand­ed since its com­par­a­tive­ly mod­est 2011 roll-out. The com­pa­ny signed part­ner­ship agree­ments with 151 insti­tu­tions in 2012 and the Art Project has grown since then to include over 57,000 dig­i­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of famous and not-so-famous works of art. Most recent­ly, it has added work to the online col­lec­tions of 34 dif­fer­ent part­ner insti­tu­tions. Google’s announce­ment on its offi­cial blog takes a themed approach, pre­sent­ing ver­sions of sev­er­al trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) works that have just joined the Art Project. Trompe l’oeil is a gim­mick as old as antiq­ui­ty, and Google gives us sev­er­al exam­ples, begin­ning with the styl­ish, under­stat­ed Brazil­ian train sta­tion mur­al right above by Adri­ana Vare­jao. Below, see the ceil­ing of Italy’s Nation­al Archae­o­log­i­cal Muse­um of Fer­rara, a much more clas­si­cal (or Baroque) approach to trompe l’oeil that dis­plays some typ­i­cal ele­ments of the peri­od, includ­ing elab­o­rate geo­met­ric designs, lots of gold, and well-dressed fig­ures star­ing down at view­ers or float­ing off into the heav­ens. See more trompe l’oeil works on Google’s blog, and access their full dig­i­tal col­lec­tion here.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix

The Rijksmu­se­um Puts 125,000 Dutch Mas­ter­pieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

The Get­ty Puts 4600 Art Images Into the Pub­lic Domain (and There’s More to Come)

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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