In October, the internet giant, Google, said that it would be significantly upping its game with respect to the virtual display of artworks. This is not the first time that the company has stepped into the virtual gallery arena. Since it first came out in 2018, Google’s Pocket Gallery has been allowing users with smartphones and tablets running artificial reality (AR) software to view many artworks from around the world that are not always available to see directly. This service has meant that viewing paintings by the likes of Vermeer and Klimt, for example, has been possible even if the featured pieces might not sit next to one another in real life.
As of this autumn, however, Google is opening up its virtual exhibitions to anyone who can access the web. This means that for the first time, some high-quality digital reproductions of globally renowned artworks are viewable on an ordinary desktop or mobile device whether or not it has AR capabilities. According to a corporate blog post that Google issued, Pocket Gallery will be significantly democratised so that the hardware capability that used to limit its take up is done away with. The firm’s statement read that Pocket Gallery had essentially been an overly complex AR experience thus far. Users were only able to access it via Google’s Arts & Culture app. This virtual gallery space had previously only allowed users to explore two-dimensional art on a flat surface with a compatible device.
A New Approach
What Google has created is a new system whereby anyone can simply load up the firm’s Arts & Culture website in a browser and navigate their way to the Pocket Gallery section of it with ease. Then, all that is needed is to select an exhibition in the browser and scroll around. This can be done by clicking with a mouse or with a finger swipe in the case of touchscreen devices. With this mode of operation, exploring a virtual gallery becomes much closer to the experience of wandering around a real exhibition space since you can choose where to go and what to look at. As well as moving through this three-dimensional world the software allows users to zoom in towards pieces that capture their attention, to pan left and right and to examine paintings very closely such that their individual brushstrokes can be seen in a stunning level of detail.
For the first time, the digital art service allows anyone with an interest in famous works of art to explore those in Google’s digital collection without needing to make use of AR technology. As well as being able to see art close up, the service provides a written description of individual pieces, just as you might experience in a bricks-and-mortar gallery. Pocket Gallery also provides audio narratives for some of the artworks on display in the digital gallery that offers further context to each selected piece. In addition, Google Arts & Culture has revealed it has advanced plans for a new virtual exhibition for which it has partnered with the Réunion des Musées Nationaux in France. This will contain some 40 masterpieces of maritime art drawn from the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.