We all know the major parts of Google’s service; the search, the maps, Android, etc. But what some may not have heard of Google’s Cultural Institute.
The Google Cultural Institute is an arm of Google that has partnered with hundreds of artistic institutions around the globe; from galleries to museums, in order to digitalise some of humanity’s greatest cultural entities and make them accessible to the masses on a wide scale. Launched in 2011 GCI has already partnered up with high profile cultural organisations such as the British Museum, the Museo Galileo and the Museum of Polish History, and now boasts over 6 million items in its archive.
The Cultural Institute includes the Google Art Project which focuses on the artistic contributions of artists spanning across more than 40 countries, the World Wonders Project which boasts 3D representations of world heritage sites and archival exhibits, and has now launched the Street Art Project.
This newest addition to the Google’s cultural repertoire allows users to explore some incredible examples of street art across the planet, offering high res images of art work, as well as leveraging Street View to experience these amazing slices of human creativity in an interactive and engaging way.
Street art has long been a controversial medium, and its transience is both a creative benefit, and a great shame. The most obvious example in the UK is Leake Street in London which is the only location in London where graffiti is considered legal. As such it is an incredible location for talented artists to express themselves, and yet it is constantly changing, and will never look the same two days in a row. In recent years it has grown in notoriety; not least because of the work of Banksy, whose clandestine work has not only provided some interesting social commentary, but has also catapulted street art into public consciousness.
So it is great to see this new project from Google, which increases the reach of some highly impressive artists around the globe. How else would we have access to street art in Manila and Tunisia?
On the flip side, however, it could be argued that the very nature of street art is held in its temporary existence; intended as a fleeting message, to be witnessed by the few and not the many. And perhaps much of the creative expression of street art resides in its transience, its impermanence and its selective nature. It could be said that street art is not supposed to be about large reaching ambitiousness and high volume exposure, but more a brief glimpse of artistic expression that exists only for a moment before it fades away.
What is your view on the growing prominence of street art? Should it be considered a viable art form, or is it a blight on society? Where do we draw the line between vandalism, and creative expression? A difficult issue, when art is, in itself, a subjective experience. One man’s masterpiece may be another’s atrocity.
However you feel about this, Google’s newest cultural venture highlights the growth of street art, and its increasing prominence in public awareness.