What is the ‘Art Project’?

Google Art Project is an online compilation of high-resolution images of artworks from galleries worldwide, as well as a virtual tour of the galleries in which they are housed. The project was launched on 1 February 2011 by Google, and includes works in the Tate Gallery, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; and the Uffizi, Florence.

The "walk-through" feature of the project uses Google's Street View technology. The project includes 16 images over one gigapixel in size (over 1 billion pixels); the largest, Ivanov's The Appartition of Christ to the People, is over 12 gigapixels. By comparison, a typical digital camera takes pictures at 10 megapixels, or about 1000 times smaller in area.

Seventeen galleries and museums were included in the launch of the project. The 1,061 high-resolution images (by 486 different artists) are shown in 385 virtual gallery rooms, with 6,000 Street View-style panoramas. Each institute contributed one item of gigapixel artwork.

Google described the inclusion of Holbein's The Ambassadors as "tough". This was due to the anamorphic techniques used in a portion of the artwork. Google stated that the effect was still apparent in the gigapixel version of the painting, but was less pronounced in the "walk-through" function.

Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, Elizabeth Merritt, described the project as an "interesting experiment" but was sceptical as to its intended audience. Julian Raby, director of the Freer Gallery of Art, expressed a belief that rather than stopping a person viewing artwork in galleries, the project increases the person's desire to view the actual artwork. This view was shared by Brian Kennedy, director of the Toledo Museum of Art, who believed that academics would still want to view artwork in three dimensions, even if the gigapixel images provided better clarity than viewing the artwork in the gallery. Similarly, Amit Sood—the Google project leader—said that "nothing beats the first-person experience".

Beyond Google Art Project, other high definition digitalization programs exist, such as the ressources of the French Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, with Mona Lisa, by Leonardo, and other paintings by Raphael, Watteau or Van Gogh, etc.

Romania: Virtual tours for Bucharest Natural History Museum Grigore Antipa and for Museum of the Romanian Peasant.

Already in January 2009 Google had launched its The Prado in Google Earth project, containing photos of 14 Prado paintings with the largest having 14 gigapixels.

A unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail.

Explore museums with Street View technology: virtually move around the museum’s galleries, selecting works of art that interest you, navigate though interactive floor plans and learn more about the museum and you explore.

Artwork View: discover featured artworks at high resolution and use the custom viewer to zoom into paintings. Expanding the info panel allows you to read more about an artwork, find more works by that artist and watch related YouTube videos.

Create your own collection: the ‘Create an Artwork Collection’ feature allows you to save specific views of any of the 1000+ artworks and build your own personalised collection. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared with friends and family.

Why is there a difference between the museums in terms of the number of galleries, artworks and related information?

Google approached the museum partners without any curatorial direction, and each museum was able to chose the number of galleries, artwork and information they wanted to include, based on reasons specific to them. All content in the information panel pertaining to individual artworks was also provided by the museums. W hy are some areas or specific paintings in the museum Street View imagery blurred?

Some of the paintings and features captured with Street View were required to be blurred by the museums for reasons pertaining to copyrights.

Are the images on the Art Project site copyright protected?

The high resolution imagery of artworks featured on the art project site are owned by the museums, and these images may be subject to copyright laws around the world. The Street View imagery is owned by Google. All of the imagery on this site is provided for the sole purpose of enabling you to use and enjoy the benefit of the art project site, in the manner permitted by Google’s Terms of Service.

Editor: Liu Xiongfei