Google’s Art Project

There has been a lot of discussion in social media and by news outlets recently of Google’s newly launched Art Project. The Project uses street view technology to allow users to explore the collections of museum and art galleries. It includes the ability to create an ‘individual art collection’ of pieces you like. Art Project features 385 rooms in 17 well known cultural institutions, and over 1,000 works by 486 artists. Each participating organization has also selected a work to be classified as “gigapixel artwork.” These selected pieces have a dramatically increased zoom feature which allows users to look at minute details. Additionally, Google maps is linked to the Art Project, allowing users to ‘jump’ to exploring institutions using Google maps.

Despite the some of the benefits and potential of this initiative there has been a number of complaints regarding how information was gathered and how it is being displayed. A number of images are blurred out in galleries due to copyright issues. Similarly, only a handful of images are currently available in high resolution. The low resolution images leave out a vast amount of detail in intricate works. Only a select number of institutions are currently part of the Project and there has yet to be an indication of if or when the project will expand.

The Art Project is an interesting idea. However, in its current form it merely exposes some of the world’s most well known art work. It does little for smaller institutions, lesser known artists, and the preservation of a wide range of artistic material.

The Intersection of Art and Technology


I was recently reminded of the impact which technology has upon art. Art like many things has been drastically impacted by evolving technologies. Since the impact of technology on art is diverse, to begin with I’m only going to attempt to discuss technology and art history.

The work of Dr Maurizio Seracini is one of the most well known examples of the profound impact technology can have upon art history. For over 25 years Seracini has been using technology to learn more about the works of Da Vinci. Seracini adapted technology from medical and military fields to allow for nondestructive analysis of art. One of the more notable efforts by Seracini is the possible discovery “The Battle of Anghiari” mural by da Vinci. Using radar and tomographic imagery Seracini was able to analyze the hall in which the mural was painted, without damaging any of it’s current contents. The use of technology to examine original architecture and art has immense possibilities, and could allow for scholars to learn a great deal more about supposedly lost architectural and aesthetic features.

Additionally, technology has also been used to assign dates to pieces of art. For example, a relatively new technology has allowed for the dating of early pictographs. This technology uses a type of carbon dating, previously only used on pottery, bones, and other physical artifacts. This carbon dating was previously not possible due to the lack of high levels of organic materials in most pictographs. As technology has advanced more information has been gained about early rock paintings. This is a triumph for anyone interested in early art history, archeology, and the history of many ancient societies.

As technology has increased so has the ease of creating art forgeries. That being said technology has also allowed for the development of technologies which can easily detect forgeries. For example, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) has been used to examine paints, and materials used in art. This technology has allowed for unique analysis of art, and for a “chemical fingerprint” to be created for original works of art. By knowing the exact chemical the materials used by artists, exposing forgeries has become much easier. Additionally, knowing more about the materials used by artists allows for the expansion of another dimension of art history.

Technology has allowed for art history to become increasingly scientific. Technology can assist in taking a lot of the ‘guess work’ out of art history. By combining science and art, a more in depth history of society and culture can be developed.