Art in the 21st Century

Your Ticket to 17 of the World’s Best Museums

Google digitizes artwork at the Tate, the Met, MoMA, Uffizi, and more.

By Laura Dannen February 8, 2011

Get up close to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus with Google’s Art Project.

This weekend, I did an art tour of Amsterdam…then Madrid, Florence, London, and New York. I put my nose up to Van Gogh’s The Bedroom, examining the brush strokes, then leaned back to take in the gracefulness of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. I didn’t wait in any lines, didn’t get on a single plane. And though it doesn’t replace the experience of seeing a masterpiece in person, Google’s new Art Project, launched last week, is an enthralling digital tour of 17 of the world’s best museums.

It’s hard not to geek out over this: Google has obtained access to museums like the Uffizi in Florence and the Tate in England (among many others—see below), and uses its street-view technology to let you "walk" through the galleries. You can take in the layout of the place and see how the artwork hangs, then zoom in on dozens of pieces at each museum. And I mean zoom. ‘On average there are 7 billion pixels’ per image, Amit Sood, leader of the Google Art Project, told The Washington Post. ‘This is a thousand times more than the average digital camera.’ Many of these museums already have digital images of their collections on their websites, but Google aggregates them all for the greatest, laziest art walk imaginable.

I was a little worried that my web prowling of the Palace of Versailles would detract from the first time I actually go there—diminish the power of the unknown. Then again, I can’t get up close to the artwork on the palace’s ceiling otherwise, unless I find a ladder and avoid getting thrown out of France. I think there’s room for both kinds of exploration.

Here’s the full list of museums on googleartproject.com:

Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany
The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
Museum Kampa, Czech Republic
The National Gallery, London, England
Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Tate Britain, England
The Frick Collection, NYC
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia
The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Not included: the Louvre
When will we see some Seattle museums on this list?

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