Google Art Project Posts Gigapixel Versions of Famous Works

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The company that wants to make the world accessible can check another department off its list: fine art.

Google debuted the Google Art Project on Tuesday, a collection compiled of artwork from 17 different museums from around the world. At the site, you can view over a thousand pieces of artwork in exactly the same way that they appear on display.

Using the same Street View technology that powers Google Maps, the program lets viewers experience a virtual 360 degree tour of the gallery of their choice and select the artwork they want to explore. Some of the artwork will be featured in high resolution; all of it will have a related history attached and even YouTube videos where applicable.

Users are also able to create their own gallery made up of their favorite pieces from the collections. The “Create An Artwork Collection,” feature also lets users comment on each painting and share the collection with others.

“This initiative started as a ‘20% project’ by a group of Googlers passionate about making art more accessible online. Together with our museum partners around the world we have created what we hope will be a fascinating resource for art-lovers, students and casual museum goers alike -- inspiring them to one day visit the real thing,” Amit Sood, head of the Art Project said in a statement on Google's blog.

The museums participating include, Altes Nationalgalerie, The Freer Gallery of Art Smithsonian, National Gallery (London,) The Frick Collection, Gemäldegalerie, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMa, Museo Reina Sofia, Museo Thyseen – Bornemisza, Museum Kampa, Palace of Versailles, Rijksmuseum, The State Hermitage Museum, State Tretyakov Gallery, Tate, Uffizi and Van Gogh Museum.

Missing from the list is two of Paris’ most celebrated museums, the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay.

“The collaboration between Reina Sofia Museum and Google is an exceptional opportunity to expand the knowledge of our collections of both Spanish and international contemporary art, as well as to publicize the new way we address our audiences and narrate the history of art by means of exhibitions and public programs,” said Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Reina Sofia, in a statement.

One piece of artwork from each of the 17 museums was photographed with gigapixel cameras, yielding images that contain approximately 7 billion pixels. This makes images so vivid that viewers will be able to see the details of the brushwork, the texture of the canvass underneath and even the patina.

“The Google Art Project is a powerful example of how digital technology can help art institutions work in partnership to reach out globally, to new audiences and enable works of art to be explored in depth and with stunning clarity,” said Dr. Nicholas Penny, Directory of the National Gallery, in a statement.

In total the Google Art Project features 385 gallery rooms, 486 artists, and 1,061 high resolution artwork images.