Google’s Street Art Project
When you check out Van Gogh’s straw hat self-portrait on the Google Art Project, you’re likely to get more up in his face – like every-orange-brushstroke-in- his-beard close – than you would even at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Amit Sood’s project for the Google Cultural Institute (GCI) changed the rules; it curated some of the best art from museums around the world and made it accessible in super-high-resolution format. Now comes Google’s Street Art Project.
It takes the expertise of 30 partners, including art galleries and institutes from around the globe, to create a collection of over 5,000 images of street art and over 100 street exhibitions (think spray-painted murals that play tricks on the eye, politically-charged installations, candy-coloured art on highway underpasses and crochet-covered cars). “We’ve discovered that the draw of street art is that it captures something temporary and transient,” says Sood, director of the institute.
Highlights of the project include 5 Pointz, a 19,000 sqm factory building, whose walls served as a canvas for New York’s street artists – before they were whitewashed and the building torn down, but not before Street Art NYC and GCI dedicated an online exhibit to it. “In Paris, Tour 13 is a real highlight,” adds Sood. “Parisian art gallery Galerie Itinerrance invited more than 100 artists from around the world to decorate the empty apartments of a nine-storey tower slated for demolition.
Over the course of seven months, 4,500 sq m were painted. And before it was demolished in April this year, Google was given access to take Street View imagery of the entire place.” The project has its detractors because street art has long been in a grey area (defacement, critics wail) – and one might argue that its practitioners rarely care if their work is protected. But Sood believes there’s a need to preserve street art as social expression. “Educating, promoting and changing perspectives about our public spaces via street art is critical,” he says. “Art can connect and inspire communities to create better cities. And long after the paint has faded from the walls, technology can preserve street art, so people can discover it wherever and whenever they like.”