Dear Google: More Bacon, Please

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It has been a while since my last post (give a girl a break – I’ve been immersing myself in the captivating city of Hong Kong on exchange for my FINAL YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL!  I’m excited to be *nearly* done), but something recently came to my attention that has captured my heart.  I’m not sure if I haven’t come across this before because: a) I’ve been so busy; b) I haven’t been keeping up with the art world very consistently; or c) I’m oblivious, (all of the above?) however I’ve just encountered Google’s Art Project.

It has in truth been around for a LONG time, but I’ve never come across it before (it also took me forever to discover Google Scholar which has essentially saved my behind this year, since my Canadian-based legal research systems are not terribly helpful in international study).

The way I stumbled on the project is actually super nerdy (as is often the case when I tell stories).  Hong Kong is actually filled with amazing little galleries *practically everywhere* and I’ve taken to wandering around them when I have time; they’re great for study breaks (when I manage to take them)! Today however, I’m on campus and have too much to accomplish, so I haven’t any time to jump on the MTR and get to a gallery.  Instead I decided to find a museum I could take a virtual tour of for a few minutes when I need a break.  Naturally, not knowing where to start I Google’d (interesting topic on IP re: “Google” becoming a verb and what it does to their protection rights – another time) museum virtual tours. That’s when I came across this little gem.

Google has partnered with a number of museums (world class – the Met and the Tate are among the partners) to bring not only virtual tours (a la Google street view) but also high resolution copies of the works that you can zoom in on, get the provenance of, and in some cases a detailed write up about. It allows you to save works to your own gallery (fancy yourself a curator?) to come back to again and again. It’s such an advantage to be able to see institutions that are temporarily closed as well – the Hong Kong Museum of Art is under major renovations and won’t reopen until at least 2017.  Needless to say I haven’t had a chance to see it since my arrival, but thanks to Google’s Art Project I can nevertheless view some of the work!

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I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the street view – things seem a little weirdly proportioned and not the clearest (perhaps my internet connection), though I did instantly recognize I was in the Egyptian room at the Met the second it clicked in.  Luckily there is a section at the bottom of the screen where you can select specific pieces.  Clicking on them will take you to the location in the gallery where you can then select a little square on the screen and read the details.

Not going to lie, questions arose in my mind as to the IP implications – what happens with works on loan? Are they kept out of the tour or do they need special consent to display (it’s within the author’s bundle of copyright rights)? Luckily a lot of the pieces are outside protection periods (nothing in the Egyptian room has had copyright protection for a VERY LONG time), but IP and property rights may still be in play in some instances.  Perhaps this is something I’ll look into when I have some more time on my hands … these days I’m fully immersed in exam prep and getting ready to write my bar.

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The one thing that I’d love improvement on is expansion of the works.  There are a great deal of pieces already in the project, but I couldn’t help but notice some of my favourites missing.  There is nothing from Rothko (or at least not when I searched), which is odd considering the Tate is a partner and they hold among the largest collections of his work (hell0, remember Rothko ROOM, anyone?).  I’m also disappointed in the lack of Bacon.  A singular piece from the Detroit Institute (an institution close to my heart, after we spent a year together working on an essay about how it simply CANNOT be sold … and luckily was not) makes up the entire Google Art Project on Bacon. I’ll be truthful this isn’t the first time one of my favourite artists wasn’t afforded the respect I think he deserves (for another time – Bacon in a stairwell corner in Chicago *heartbreak*).  I can’t help but wonder if copyright might play a role in these issues – they’re both deceased less than 50 years.  Maybe we’ll see some more Rothko in 3.5 years.  Regardless I’ve started my collection and can’t wait to add to it as the partner list grows and the pieces available for view are expanded.  Five stars for Google (okay … four until they bring home the Bacon)!

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