Google Versus Art Galleries — Will Google Lose?

Google’s new Internet service, Art Project, enables users to take a virtual tour of 17 international museums and also offers high-definition images of more than 1,000 works of art. Fears that virtuality could replace the experience of direct contact with art and lead to empty museums are – the Corriere del Ticino (Switzerland, March 16) believes – unfounded:

“No high-tech access to art can replace the experience of entering a museum, the satisfaction of moving around in rooms surrounded by masterpieces, the full range of emotions that a work of art can arouse. We may be able to observe every brush stroke on the computer screen, every crack in the paint of a masterpiece, but this can never compare to the experience of actual physical proximity….

“It is not the glory of detail that fascinates us but the vision of the whole which the artist conveys; the transfer of his world view, his thoughts, his emotions onto the canvas. As a result of some mysterious alchemy, only direct contact with a work of art can lead to true aesthetic enjoyment.”

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4 responses to “Google Versus Art Galleries — Will Google Lose?

  1. David Schatzky

    I believe Corriere del Ticino to be both correct and wrong. There is no doubt that art on canvas has a powerful impact on those who wish to relate to it. And that fabulous relationship between painting and viewer is at its best in a face to face meeting. No argument there, at all. Where Google has the power to change everything is that millions who might never set foot in a gallery will have the illusion that by seeing a work of art on their laptop screen or on their iPad they have had a full and complete experience with that piece, and that there is no need to see it in person. Many young people never go to movie theatres any more, because they like watching films at home, even on cell-phone screens! Glenn Gould stopped playing in concert halls because he thought recordings provided the listener with a better performance. The McLuhan prophecy that each new technology subsumes the previous ones is born out again and again. I no longer have a Globe and Mail subscription, because I can read the paper on line. That’s despite the fact that the Globe has recently re-designed the print edition beautifully. But, I don’t really care. The same general phenomenon is happening in psychotherapy: medical schools, professional associations, training institutes are having to redesign protocols and codes of ethics to take into account online and telephone therapy. NOT meeting face to face would have been scandalous even 15 years ago. Now, in many circles it’s accepted practice. So, despite the intrinsic and demonstrably superior experience that art in person provides over art online, art galleries will definitely see a decline as a new digital generation of potential art fans will stay home to see paintings, just as they stay home and access much of life electronically. Just as young musicians “remix” (take bits and pieces of other musicians’ works and create new hybrid versions), home-based artists can take digital images of works like the Mona Lisa and Guernica, and create something new by blending them, perhaps with Van Gogh’s Daffodils, adding a photo of Justin Bieber and Stephen Harper, and create an entirely new online work.
    They would say: Art galleries, who needs ’em?

  2. If I may say so, you left out an important point from your otherwise unimprovable reply.

    Magic.

    There is something magical about being in a room also inhabited by Leonardo, Rembrandt, or, if I was an immortal, myself.

    As to the Glenn Gould syndrome, who can deny that from his point of view he was entirely right?

    As Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister (or was it somebody else? You? Me? ) said:

    “Why should I care if she is in love with me?”

  3. Elisabeth Ecker

    I have heard Glenn Gould at a concert and it was a better experience than a recording.

  4. . . . for you maybe, but not for him! 😉