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On February 1, 2011 Google launched the groundbreaking Google Art Project. This is an online, high-resolution compilation of some of the greatest works of art, featured in some of the most famous museums, worldwide: including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and, my personal favorite, the Frick Collection in New York City; the Uffizi in Florence; the Palace of Versailles in Paris and the Tate Gallery in London. All in all, seventeen museums and galleries participated in this revolutionary venture.

According to the Wikipedia, Elizabeth Merritt, the Director of the Center for the Future of Museums, described the project as an “interesting experiment.” Other leaders in the world of art greeted this venture with more optimism. Julian Raby, the Director of the Freer Gallery of Art, stated that this project would increase viewers’ interest in visiting the actual museums. Brian Kennedy shared this view, stating that even though the virtual museum and gallery tours offer better resolution and panoramic perspectives, that’s still not a substitute for seeing the works of art in person.

It’s not the same, but, in my opinion, the Google Art Project represents the wave of the future–if not the present–not just for museums, but also for art galleries. Galleries in particular have taken a terrible hit during the past few years. Many were forced to go out of business. During tough economic times, art is seen as a luxury that many consumers are willing to forgo. The Google Art Project generates interest in great works of art once again. And with interest comes visits to the museum and galleries, which in turn, increases the number of  art collectors and buyers.

Incidentally, I also love the idea that Google, which now owns YouTube, combines the virtual museum tours with YouTube videos related to selected artists or works of art. By combining beautiful art and music, sometimes even local scenes, and by being so widely accessible to hundreds of millions of YouTube viewers, Google is making art accessible and inviting not only to art lovers but also to those who have only a remote interest in art.

The world of art has reached a pivotal turning point due to this, and similar, technological advances. Those galleries that will adapt to these new ways of reaching viewers to inform and attract the general public will be much more likely to survive than those that will not. I can’t see virtual reality becoming a substitute for actual reality in any domain: be it art, sex or entertainment. But I do see virtual reality as the most effective–and now, indispensable–way to spread information about the reality that will count most in the twenty-first century. You can learn more about this project by visiting the website http://www.googleartproject.com/c/faq.

More recently, in May 2011, Google also launched Google Music, an online service that offers music in a similar fashion to itunes (in fact, you can import songs from itunes on it). This new service is very versatile: you can purchase songs on Google plus as well as store up to 20,000 songs for free. So far Google Music is available only to U.S. residents, but it will soon open up to other parts of the world. You can find more information about Google Music on the website http://music.google.com.

Claudia Moscovici, postromanticism.com