Artworks from the National Museum and the National Gallery of Modern Art would now be accessible at the touch of a keystroke with Culture Ministry on Tuesday announcing a partnership with Google that allows people to view art and stroll through museums across the world, online.
The two art institutions have joined Google’s Art Project that features over 30,000 artworks in gigapixel super high resolution with street view images from 151 partners in 41 countries, including the art collection of the White House and Palace of Versailles in France.
“The partnership is not just about bringing people to the museums but taking the National Museum and the NGMA to people across the globe. From a child accessing the web from an Internet cafe in Mumbai to a student in New York looking for inspiration for a thesis, the project will connect a cross section of art enthusiasts,” Culture Minister Kumari Selja said after inaugurating the project at NGMA in New Delhi.
She pointed out that it was unfortunate that in recent times art has become inaccessible for a variety of reasons.
“A substantial body of artwork is locked up in private collections that are not easily accessible. In public museums a vast majority is kept away from public view in reserve collections and even what is on display is subject visiting time limitations and travelling to these museums can be expensive and time consuming,” she said.
The project uses street view technology to enable people to move around the gallery virtually to view high quality digitised images and accessing information about the artworks.
Some iconic artworks such as M.F. Husain’s landmark 1955 work Zameen or Bhupen Kakkar’s Man with Plastic Flowers (1975) along with works by artists like Jamini Roy and Amrita Shergill would be available for viewing.
Rajan Anandan, Managing Director and VP (Sales and Operations), Google India said, “There are 120 million Indians on the internet everyday and with the Art Project they can go around museums worldwide at the touch of a keystroke. The project illustrates Google’s commitment to bringing culture online and making it accessible to widest possible audience.”
While the first stage of the project’s Indian chapter has put online digitised images of 250 artworks NGMA and National Musuem, the Minister said she has asked the two institutions to put up at least 10,000 works each.
“We have a rich heritage of artefacts and art and we need to share them with the world. We are considering along with the Google team a number of other projects and we are confident of quick progress. We will be able to dedicate them to the public within months if not weeks,” said the Minister.
“It should also inspire and encourage people to come and visit museums,” said Ms. Selja.
Currently, the National Museum has more than 200,000 artefacts and the NGMA has over 17,000 works and in the first stage of the partnership.
Commenting on the partnership Pavin Srivastave, Director-General, National Museum said, “The association allows us to give worldwide virtual access to moments in India’s history… We are extremely happy to be part of this endeavour that enables universal access to Indian art and culture.”
Rajiv Lochan, Director, National Gallery of Modern Art said, “The NGMA houses and showcases masterpieces of the changing art forms spanning over 150 years. It endeavours to create sensitivity, awareness and understanding among national and international audiences towards Indian idiom and art expression, and the Google Art Project uses sophisticated technology to help us.”
For those who are not clued in about art the project can be an immersive experience.
“People can view all the 32,000 artworks available ranging from miniature paintings of Mughal era to contemporary art in a magazine format and discover artists and also the space inside museums,” said Amit Sood, head of the Google Art Project.
For the project, a special street view trolley took 360 degree images of the interior of selected galleries that were then stitched together enabling smooth navigation of over 385 rooms within the museums.
The project is not linked to the Internet search giant’s ad revenue and does not permit users to download or print images.
“We licence the works directly from the museum and the project is purely educational and there is no monetisation of revenues through ads,” said Mr. Sood, who declined to give the total cost involved in the project.
Other collections in Google’s Art Project includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in London, the Palace of Versailles in France, the White House in Washington DC, and the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar among others.
The initiative would also be soon available in Hindi and other regional languages as well.