High tech merged with high culture Tuesday at the Art Institute of Chicago when Google announced an upgrade to its Google Art Project initiative, adding thousands of works in dozens more countries.
The project provides access to more than 30,000 ultra-high resolution images of paintings, sculptures and photographs from 151 museums and other institutions in 40 countries. Google Art Project launched in February 2011 with about 1,000 artworks from such institutions as the Tate Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Uffizi in Florence and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
"From now on anyone can visit these great institutions with just the click of a mouse," Google president Margo Georgiadis said. "This project breaks down all of the barriers and allows people to study art in a seamless way."
It's all part of Google's ambitious effort to enable anyone with an Internet-connected device to check out the vast reservoir of human knowledge and creativity stored in libraries and museums around the world.
Google already has made digital copies of more than 15 million books during the past seven years. The company also has been scanning manuscripts and other documents in public and academic libraries.
Now, the Internet search leader is expanding its art collection.
The Art Institute of Chicago has 150 works on Google Art Project, but more contemporary pieces from noted artists like Matisse and Picasso aren't among them. Those works are still under copyright until 70 years after the artists' deaths.
Regardless, Art Institute director Douglas Druick said the Google Art Project provides valuable exposure for the museum.
"By sharing works of art in this way, all it will do is increase the interest in visual works of art and the desire to come to institutions like the Art Institute," Druick said.