Museums collaborate all the time. We share paintings, research, expertise and knowledge. The Google Art Project, however, which is a partnership between Google and seventeen of the world’s leading arts organisations, is pioneering. It offers is a new form of collaboration that allows us to take extraordinary art works beyond their individual homes in national collections to create the first global art collection. It moves us from being ‘keepers’ to ‘sharers’ of art online and gives us a taste of the digital future for museums
Whether you’re in an internet café in São Paolo looking at the brushwork in Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night 1889, which is normally found on display at MoMA in New York, or at home in Hull, exploring the surface of the National Gallery’s Holbein painting The Ambassadors 1553, you’ll find a different level of detail in viewing art online with this project, and new, virtual ways of exploring gallery spaces that dramatically changes the experience of discovering and learning about great works of art. There are times when you want to get really close to a painting. The latest technology used to capture these paintings has allowed us to do exactly that. It gives us the closest possible view at ultra high resolution of the workings of an artist’s hand, a view you couldn’t see with the naked eye. When I scanned the paintings online it made me conscious of the incredible skill and dexterity of artists. We chose Chris Ofili’s No Woman, No Cry 1998 to be captured at ultra-high resolution. It’s a remarkable work, painted as a tribute to the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, and is a poignant portrayal of loss and grief. The online image reveals another dimension to the piece rarely seen when you view it in the gallery. The artist painted a hidden message on the canvas in phosphorescent paint that can only be viewed in full in the dark. Ofili asked that this image was also recorded for the project, and so in the project you will see both views of the work. Digital technologies are rapidly changing the world and have already challenged the role and function of museums. The online space has fundamentally changed the way we exchange ideas and talk about art. No longer is public discussion limited to the artist, the curator or the newspaper critic, there is now a vast array of voices engaged in the debate around art, and our audience is taking an active part in this discussion.
At Tate we are building digital into our thinking on all levels. Through forums, blogs, social networking, films, mobile technology and other digital platforms, people can look at art, hear artists talking about their work, and take part in discussions and share their own thoughts. And with so many platforms available there are now many different, and sometimes unlikely, contexts to come across art. This has given us the opportunity to introduce people to art they might not otherwise ever come across, and bring communities of like-minded visitors together to connect in ways that aren’t always possible in the gallery. For our turbinegeneration project we are working with teachers, artists and students in over 30 countries including Brazil, China, Ghana, Russia and the UK. Students can upload their writing, photographs and videos to a blog, creating a community where partner schools can share, collaborate and develop work together, regardless of location. And children from all over the UK have been taking part in The Tate Movie Project by learning how to animate and uploading their own art work which will be used in the final film. Recently Jeremy Hunt announced the Government’s financial commitment and strategy for creating a superfast broadband network for Britain. Such a fast online infrastructure for this country will encourage the development of more initiatives like the Google Art Project, turbinegeneration and The Tate Movie Project. This is just the beginning of what’s possible for artists and museums online.
The Unilever Series: turbinegeneration, sponsored by Unilever. Tate Movie Project, part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, is supported by the Legacy Trust UK, BP and CBBC. Delivered by Aardman and Fallon.