February 1, 2011

Google Brings Famous Art Galleries To Internet World

Google launched a website on Tuesday that uses its Street View technology to put some of the world's most famous art galleries online.

The Internet giant has taken equipment from the cars and recorded the galleries so they can be enjoyed by anyone with web access.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, London's National Gallery and the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid are three of the galleries that art lovers will be able to explore by logging on to the new project.

Art by Vincent van Gogh, James McNeill Whistler and Sandro Botticelli are among over 1,000 works that have been photographed and "hung" in virtual galleries.

Visitors will be able to look around over 350 gallery rooms containing work by over 450 artists.

Nelson Mattos, vice president of engineering at Google, said the project was "a major step forward in how a lot of people are going to interact with these beautiful treasures."

"We hope it will inspire ever more people, wherever they live, to access and explore art," he told journalists at a launch event in the Tate Britain gallery in London, one of the venues involved in the project.

Google took cameras from their Street View cars and took them inside for the first time, filming with specially made trolleys in the galleries to create the 360-degree virtual tours.

Visitors are able to see details in pictures that were previously impossible to view with the naked eye, such as the tiny Latin Couplet in "The Merchant Georg Gisze" by Hans Holbein the Younger.

The project organizers played down concerns that putting art works online would slash the number of visitors to the museums.

"In our experience, people -- once they get a glimpse -- want to see the real thing," Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, told AFP.

He downplayed a suggestion that putting detailed pictures of the galleries online could provide information for potential art thieves.

"Like every piece of technology, there's always someone that figures out a way to misuse (it)," he said.

"If you're really thinking of stealing a painting, coming to the museum is probably the best way to check the security system."


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