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The Google Art Project: gazing at art longer than ever before

Google Art has been around for just over two years now. Embarrassingly, I haven’t really appreciated it up to now. I love it. Without leaving your arm chair, you can virtually walk through the best museums in the world. Enjoying fine art at high-resolution.

The most impressive part is how good the quality of the images is. For example, I was looking for one of my favourite paintings by Pieter Bruegel, The Harvesters. Once found, there was much pleasure in zooming in and out: churches, small children playing and funny little happenings like a man going about his ‘business’, reveal themselves in the background. To give another example, you can scrutinize every single brushstroke in van Gogh’s The Starry Night. They look so beautifully fresh and dynamic when seen up close. And it’s not all classic art. Also covered are contemporary art and other initiatives. You should have a look at the Sao Paulo street art; such amazing graffiti.

And then there is ‘the User Gallery option’.You simply add images you like and put them in your own online collection, which then circulates through social networks of both amateurs, art connoisseurs and art lovers, alike. So you can feel like a curator of your own little personal museum; just think about, what do you think would be the ultimate collection?

It is interesting that people look significantly longer at art online than offline. (Google Art Project made their first figures known on their official blog). Visitors take an average of one minute to view an artwork on the site. That does not seem like very much, but in an actual museum visitors walk by an artwork in less than twenty seconds. Although zooming in on a digital photograph is no substitute for the real thing (I still prefer a trip to the museum and think you should too), I think Google offers a fantastic tool to appreciate art and, let’s be frank, just to play around with.

Robyn Mayer