LAUNCHPROJECTS - Roberta Smith wrote a piece in today's New York Times about Google's Art Project. I had peripherally heard of this undertaking but had not yet explored the site. Intrigued by Smith's rave review - "from where I sit Google's Art Project looks like a bandwagon everyone should jump on. It makes visual knowledge more accessible, which benefits us all" - I logged on.
Within a few minutes I visited the Tate Britian, the National Gallery, The Frick Collection, the Museo Reina Sofia, MoMA, the Uffizi Gallery - to name a but a few. I experienced the rooms, the walls, the frames, and the paintings to such minutia that William Hogarth's Satan, Sin, and Death (pictured above, right) became almost unbearably tangible - Milton's Paradise Lost in real time in my living room.
This level of access fosters an incredibly intimate art experience. Anyone can enter any of the participating museums at any time, for any length of time. There is no jet lag, fatigue, crush of crowds, plane ticket to buy, or lunch appointment to keep. It is an opportunity to practice seeing, in Smith's words "you can look from a seated position in the comfort of your own home or office cubicle, for as long as you want, without being jostled or blocked by other art lovers. At the same time the chance to look closely at paintings, especially as made things, really to study the way artists construct an image on a flat surface, is amazing, and great practice for looking at actual works."
Google's Art Project is a unique opportunity to explore major works of art throughout the world in an instant. This virtual experience is a part of a continuum of image reproduction that reaches larger audiences. Traditionally in the form of "art books, as postcards, posters, and art-history-lecture-slides," Google's Art Project is the next step in this access to information. Seen exactly for what it is, Art Project is an exciting innovation and incredibly powerful tool accessible to anyone free of charge. Maybe modern technology won't be the death of painting after all.