Google Lets You Take a 360-Degree Panoramic Tour of Street Art in Cities Across the World


A friend of mine, a fel­low Amer­i­can liv­ing in Seoul, just recent­ly put up a vlog in which he at once admires a piece of street art he hap­pens upon here and remarks on how much the pres­ence of the stuff both­ered him back in the States. It illus­trates an impor­tant point about the very medi­um of street art, graf­fi­ti, tag­ging, or what­ev­er you hap­pen to call it: con­text is every­thing — or rather, con­text and skill are every­thing. The worst exam­ples, as Paul Gra­ham writes, hap­pen “at the inter­sec­tion of ambi­tion and incom­pe­tence: peo­ple want to make their mark on the world, but have no oth­er way to do it than lit­er­al­ly mak­ing a mark on the world.”


How to find the best exam­ples? Ide­al­ly, they’ll catch you by sur­prise in their nat­ur­al urban envi­ron­ment, but you can’t be in every urban envi­ron­ment at once. Hence Google Street Art, the vir­tu­al muse­um we fea­tured last year. Since then Google Street Art intro­duced anoth­er inno­va­tion: the abil­i­ty to behold some of their 10,000 col­lect­ed pieces in “muse­um view.”

We’ve all used Google Street View to remote­ly explore the far­away places that pique our curios­i­ty, and some of us have already tried using it to check out the world’s street art, but this pro­vides a kind of Street View espe­cial­ly for street art, a high-res­o­lu­tion 360-degree panoram­ic per­spec­tive that lets you step for­ward and back­ward, to the left and to the right, and look at it from whichev­er angle you want to look at it.


Now you can check out 94 pieces and count­ing in much greater detail, from Los Ange­les to Bal­ti­more, Lis­bon to Lon­don, Buenos Aires to Mel­bourne. The selec­tion even includes pieces of street art brought indoors, as found in Paris’ Palais de Tokyo and the Gyeong­gi Muse­um of Art right here in Korea. Whether street art has the prop­er impact out­side its orig­i­nal urban con­text, or in a dig­i­tal rather than a con­crete ver­sion of that urban con­text, will sure­ly remain an inter­est­ing debate. “A city can nev­er be a uni­fied work of art or a beau­ti­ful object,” argues archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an Joseph Ryk­w­ert in The Seduc­tion of Place, since “all sorts of things buf­fet and push human inten­tions about.” Per­haps, but that buf­fet­ing and push­ing cre­ates so much, from the grand­est tow­ers to the hum­blest alley murals, that counts as art in itself.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Google Puts Online 10,000 Works of Street Art from Across the Globe

The Cre­ativ­i­ty of Female Graf­fi­ti & Street Artists Will Be Cel­e­brat­ed in Street Hero­ines, a New Doc­u­men­tary

Obey the Giant: Short Film Presents the True Sto­ry of Shep­ard Fairey’s First Act of Street Art

Big Bang Big Boom: Graf­fi­ti Stop-Motion Ani­ma­tion Cre­ative­ly Depicts the Evo­lu­tion of Life

Artists Paint Paris, Berlin and Lon­don with High-Tech Video Graf­fi­ti

The Bat­tle for LA’s Murals

Google Gives You a 360° View of the Per­form­ing Arts, From the Roy­al Shake­speare Com­pa­ny to the Paris Opera Bal­let

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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