Why Google’s Art Project is Important to Artists, and the Rest of Us

Why Google’s Art Project is Important to Artists, and the Rest of Us


I’m quite the admirer of Google, it seems like they have their hand in just about everything. The company actually encourages it’s employees to come up with and develop cool technology by allowing their engineers to spend 20% of their time making whatever they want. From this creative time the engineers get, something called “The Google Art Project” spawned in 2011. The Google Art team has taken on quite a few interesting projects, but most interesting among them are probably the “Gigapixel Camera” and the art close-ups the gigapixel camera is creating, and the many galleries they've brought online. 

The Gigapixel Art Camera

Pretty cool name, eh? Well what is a gigapixel? It’s an image with one billion pixels, or approximately 125 times the resolution of a photo taken with an iPhone 6. With that kind of resolution, you can zoom up really really close, like this:

So why does this matter, other than it being fun to zoom in really far on random pieces of art? It’s an inspiration source for artists, a way of spreading the skill wealth so to speak. Abigail Henrie Remington, an accomplished local artist (see her portfolio here), shared her thoughts with us on why Google’s mega camera is relevant to artists: “[Google’s Art Camera] enables the amateur artist to get an idea of how the master rendered the painting. For example, one could zoom in on the skin tone of a Peter Paul Reuben's painting and see that he used not just pink, but purple and red and orange, to color the subject’s skin tone. Another example is that zooming in shows how thick the artist used the paint in some areas. Seeing the texture of a painting gives a lesson on the dimensional perspective, because typically master painters will use thick paint in highlighted areas and thin paint in shadows, to create a more 3 dimensional feel. Now that Google has given me the ability to zoom up on a myriad of masterpieces, I can continually learn from the masters whenever I want.”

A New Kind of Art Gallery

In addition to scanning masterpieces in extreme detail, Google is also documenting whole art movements across the world in really neat ways. For example, using their 360 degree cameras (which they developed for Google Street View), they’ve scanned TONS of beautiful and unique formal and informal art galleries for our viewing pleasure. It is quite nice to see historic art galleries that are separated from us by thousands of miles such as St. Petersburg's State Hermitage museum, but even more impressive are the aforementioned informal art galleries. When I say informal I don’t mean it’s the type of gallery you’d wear flip flops to (but you can if you want actually), it’s the type of gallery you couldn’t experience without Google’s work. The Google Arts & Culture team brings art that is geographically separated that would otherwise be impossible to visit all at once.  For example, in order to visit all or even a good percentage of the Philadelphia Mural Art Program’s murals you would need to spend weeks touring Philadelphia’s streets. Instead, you can spend 10 minutes exploring the highlights on Google’s dedicated page for it here. Long story short, The Philadelphia Mural Art Program gives the opportunity for graffiti artists to use their skills for public benefit, and their work so far has been amazing. This promotional video made for the Philadelphia Mural Art Program contains excellent drone footage, check it out!

Because many of us have Rio on our minds during this Olympic season, here's one more for fun. If you'd like to explore this breathtaking view of Rio and the famous Cristo Redentor statue yourself, click hereUse your cursor on a desktop or laptop to click and drag around the screen, or on mobile touch and drag to explore.

Consider yourself warned: If you do click on any one of those links to the Arts & Culture site, prepare to surrender the remainder of your lunch break. 

Russell Fischer