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Google Expands Art Project, But Gets a Little Evil

Google announced today in Paris and Chicago that it’s expanding beyond the museums and art works that were part of its first launch in February, 2011 — way beyond the 17 museums chosen originally.

It now has 151 partners in 40 countries; in the U.S., the initial four museums has grown to 29 institutions, including the White House and university art galleries.

Here’s the full press release, which says in part:

From now on, with a few simple clicks of their fingers, art lovers will be able to discover not just paintings, but also sculpture, street art, and photographs. Creations from a wide variety of cultures and civilizations are represented, including Brazilian street graffiti, Islamic decorative arts and ancient African rock art.

The project has expanded dramatically. More than 30,000 objects are available to view in high resolution, up from 1,000 in the first version. Street View images now cover 46 museums, with more on the way.

Also check that link above for the ways the project has been improved technologically.

So why is Google evil? Because when I clicked on the link in the press release to the 151 partners, I received this message:

You’re missing out…

Sorry, the Google Art Project uses technology that your browser doesn’t understand.

Install Chrome Frame for Internet Explorer to improve your experience of using the web. It’s simple and only needs to be done once.

It’s true that I was able to use another link on the Art Project press site’s homepage to discover the U.S. museums now involved,  but it makes me wonder if this is the first step toward restricting the full functionality of the Art Project to Chrome users.

The photo above, a painting by Fernando Amorsolo, is drawn from the collection of the Ayala Museum in the Philippines, which takes some real effort to get to, except via the Google Art Project.




  1. richard hertz says

    yeah – why shouldn’t you have everything everywhere all the time?

    how dare they make this available somewhere. next you’ll tell me that museums should come to you (which , i guess, you already are.)

    • I’m not sure I get your sarcasm, but I was commenting on Google’s past promise not to be evil, as Microsoft was always perceived to me, for being monopolistic. I’m not at all suggesting that everything always be available on everyone’s terms — I suffer from the notion that “information wants to be free”! This blog is free.

      • But Judy, Google Chrome Frame is free. And, just as the message you posted says, Google has made available – for free – versions of Chrome Frame that work with its competitors’ browsers (Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox).

        What’s more, since the main competing browsers are all free and easy to obtain already (which is why almost no one pays for a Web browser anymore), Google is unlikely to put Microsoft and Mozilla out of the browser business the way Microsoft did to Netscape.

        There may be reasons to criticize Google for starting to become evil, but I don’t think this is one of them.

        • It’s free, but I prefer not to use it. Yet I fear that, eventually, Google will force me to use it if I want to use Google Art Project. It’s the thin end of the wedge (one of many).
          P.S. I did say “a little evil.”

        • Jonathan Gaugler says

          Tough call. I just installed Chrome Frame, and within a few seonds was browsing Uffizi Gallery. Of course, I checked the Terms and Conditions box without reading them. There’s something about the “error message” feel that makes one just want to quickly click through and “fix” it.

          I wonder what I agreed to…

  2. Anne-Marie Bouche says

    Same thing happened to me. First, I tried to install the Chrome Frame but it still did not work. So I switched browsers (from Explorer to Firefox) and voila, it worked fine.

    I have no objection to the Google Art Project but what is with the images that are covered with a blue film, so you can’t see them in the zoom feature? The Quai Branley museum and some of the images from Chantilly are like that. If institutions don’t actually want to share their images in quality format, why are they there at all?

    Where I teach, there ARE no museums to speak of closer than 3 hours’ drive, and even then the assortment is limited. So for my students, few of whom have ever traveled and many of whom have never been in an art museum, Google Art Project is a godsend.

  3. The Art Project is both exciting and troubling but may be just in time. Museums are finding the changing interests of the population mitigate against growing attendance. The Art Project does address the continuation of cultural literacy, but as I suggest in my posting of the news story, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. Google Chrome may be the salty snacks in the pub.

  4. This is as sad as viewing slides in an advanced art history class vs seeing works in the flesh.
    Without experiencing the textures the whole thing is as incomplete as a comic book or cartoon.
    Tech is tech, it is not a painting.

  5. The Art Project seems a bit mysterious to me. There is no sign of it (that I could find) on the Google home page (the one that’s called And More). I did get to it at , and I got there using Safari. The artists seem to be alphabetized by first name, which isn’t terribly useful. I looked up Terborch on the Wikipaintings site and got a lot of useful info, but to find Gerard Terborch on the ArtsProject you first have to scroll through dozens of artists named George. Google has 8 images; Wikipaintings has 47.

    If you click on one of the great collections, you get images (and you can click on the image to get some minimal information), but you can do just as well going to the website of the institution itself.

    I guess I don’t understand what the goal of the Google project is.

  6. For those who saw what was in Google’s catalog and lamented the fact that it missed so much, perhaps the miss the point. It is an ongoing project, and like their Book Project and the street mapping, in time hope to cover the world’s entire history of art.

    Some of the features are indeed annoying, or unusual, like using the first name of artists to catalog them, and their selection of initial museums seems to be based on availability as much as scholarship. Perhaps there was a bit of Google rankings involved in it as well as the inclusion of the Olympics Museum and the Norman Rockwell Museum (in my beloved Berkshires) shows a nod to popular taste.

    I had fun posting the complete story with videos of how they they got the images, how to use the site. I also had no problem using Safari, perhaps it is the fact that Internet Explorer has fallen from grace on the internet because of its inability to keep up that causes people to get the Google Chrome messages. Was not able to check this out directly, but will when I am at a friend’s who is still stuck in the Microsoft world.

  7. I’m with you, Judith. Google has gone power mad, as shown by the number of cookies they try to implant from any site that uses their products, and by the recent revelations of how they package personal info to advertisers. Not that every other commercial site doesn’t do the same thing, but the sophistication and scale of Google is breathtaking and frightening. The last thing I’m gonna do is download Chrome or use Gmail or the other products.

    Since I spend many, many happy hours surfing the web looking at beautiful works of art I obviously don’t need Google and their partner institutions. I’m a regular visitor to Wikipedia. Are people so gullible they think the Google “experience” can’t be duplicated on other technology? What a crock!

  8. I agree thats its a little evil for them to force me to use their google chrome to see the art project. Like Judith said its monopolistic. I can use anything else google has without their browser, so why do I need to now?

    • Thanks for your comment, Crystal — just to clarify, you don’t need Chrome to access the Google Art Project, just to access part of the information about it. But, as I said, what does that say about Google’s intentions?

  9. I should also mention that I have tried google chrome before and didn’t like it.

  10. Michael Phillips says

    I had the same problem. I let it install the Chrome Frame program but found shortly thereafter that it interferes mightily with Facebook, almost to the point of making it unusable. I quickly uninstalled it and started using the Google Chrome browser when I go to Google Art Project, which I suspect is the ultimate goal for Google. By the way, does anyone have any idea how to contact Google Art Project? I found this page by searching for a way of contacting them. Like all mighty corporate institutions these days, they seem to have made contacting them nigh on impossible. I wish to ask them to list the artists’ names by their surname. Who on Earth would sort any list of names by the first name?? That has got to be one of the most idiotic things I can think of! Also, why did they get rid of the information on the dimensions of the painting? As one who enjoys painting copies, I think that was one of the most useful aspects of the site. And no it’s not as easy to find that sort of information as one might think.


    • You might try searching for a contact for Amit Sood, who’s the head of Google Art Project.

      • Michael Phillips says

        Thank you Judith. I’ll try that.

      • I am also interested of getting in contact with the Google arts project. How do I get in contact with Mr Amit Sood Judith? I have tried to find contacts but seams tricky. The only thing I have found is his Google+ account, but it does not seam to be active.

        • I’m sorry — I don’t know how to reach him other than finding a phone # for Google and picking up the phone. I haven’t tried to call him.

          • Thanks for your swift respons Judith! Google where in a category of no-phone interaction to me. Now I tried to call and it seems my assumption was right. You can not actually call google. All options at the operator are only non-human. The only interaction that took you to a human was discontinued. 🙂 Well I will find it someway.

  11. Why is it that if you try to save a link to a painting on the Google Art Project, clicking it only brings up something totally random?

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