The Art Project by Google

The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and some of the world’s most acclaimed museums. It allows uses to take an online virtual tour around some of the world most prestigious art galleries, zoom in on some of the most famous artworks to amazing detail and listen to online commentary. Whilst there are some notable exclusions of paintings and galleries, it is a work in progress and the Art Project powered by Google plans to expand its collection of galleries and artworks.

This is a great brand partnership between the internets largest organiser of online information and the cultural centres of the world. Google has been so far very good a documenting the actual world to appear on the virtual world, with Google Maps and Google Street View, and it is great to see them capturing and documenting the worlds most important art. Whilst it can never replace the experience of visiting these museums in reality is does provide and very useful educational, documentation and accessibility resource.

It would seem from the outside that some galleries appear to be a little stand-offish letting Google in, by the notable absence of galleries like the Louvre in Paris which houses artworks like Da Vinci’s, ‘Mona Lisa‘ and although the Museo Reina Sofía is included its most famous painting Picasso’s, ‘Guernica‘ misses out, which brings up the question, is Google an online library or a for-profit search engine and can it be both? I can imagine that some of these museums might also be a little confused, because, while universal access is one of Google’s goals, Ipad uses will have to wait for a Flash compatibility treaty to happen.

Big brands will often have many avenues to build brand equity and their bottom line, and I wonder if Google’s banding partnership could have been a touch more subtle, relying on the word of mouth branding machine, i.e “have you seen the Art Project… did you know Google created it?”, to be the main carrier of brand good will. From reading comments of others discussing the merits of Googles involvement, not all feel that Google, the Google brand and the Google morals are in the best interests of the galleries, artworks and the public, and maybe there is a sense of the brand apple cart beginning to wobble. But google has definitely decided that owning the documentation of everything will in the future be of some advantage. Hypothetically, would you pay for Google maps if, all of a sudden, you needed to pay a yearly subscription?

Having said all that, it is hard not to applaud Google for their innovation, technology and allowing a seemingly democratic access to art lovers and haters the world over. This site and the ever expanding collection manages to capture the beauty, detail and context of the artworks and also provides a walking tour of the galleries, which are often a cultural experience in themselves. By and large, however shady, if at all, Googles involvement with the worlds most culturally important artworks has created an amazing collection of art from the world over. It is definitely worth heading over the The Art Project powered by Google and have a look around.

Brand partnerships are a complex arrangement, and more so are brand sponsored and collaboration projects, particularly in an online world, where comments are anonymous. In the coming years we will see which brands handled them well and which ones consumers became suspicious of.

If you would like to know more about how your brand can benefit from a partnership, sponsorship or a collaboration, drop us a line.

Lachlan McDougall
Design Creative


  1. Lachlan, what a fascinating project on so many levels. Firstly a great gesture for Google who continue to redefine their brand – they have clearly moved into that rare space where they no longer have any competition. Few brands ever achieve this status – Apple being one – where they transcend defined market definitions.
    However, the sting in the tail here is the extent to which the Google brand is starting to attract the type of negative comments many brands do when they become global and lose their intimacy. Google have further moved into the space where they can no longer work on innovations without managing the potential negative outcomes.
    A fascinating space to watch.

  2. I think this is such a fantastic idea. Having been very interested in art history and doing some courses at university, I will never see the to create that same ethereal, spiritual journey that one would experience walking through a museum and seeing these paintings in their flesh… and I don’t think that was Google’s intention anyway!
    I think, in some way, Google’s lack of subtlety in its public involvement with the art project has benefited the project as a whole.
    Without such a strong link to Google, I think the average person would be much less inclined to use the function. Art can appear so exclusive and inaccessible to the general public. Google’s aim is to create a more accessible world.. and that is such a big part of their brand image. If Google didn’t play such an open part in this collaboration, I think people may have been inclined to think the art world was still out of their reach in some sense. So many museum websites have the same collection function that Google provides, however it is rarely used or known of. I think Google needs it name in there somewhere to let people know that art is available to anyone and everyone. If it were just called the Art Project… there would still be a distancing element between the masses and the art world.

  3. Thanks for your comment David.
    The Google brand is definitely one that transcends their market. It will be interesting to see how they manage their co-branding involvement in projects like these in the future. The Art Project itself is an amazing collaboration and without Googles innovation in the creation of this project it would not be what it is. There is however a lesson here for brands, and that would be understanding the sensitivity of the audience and the context of the project. Googles presents in the The Art Project has not caused a revolt against the brand, but there is negative sentiment there, which we should be flaged as an opportunity to improve and learn from.

  4. Thanks for your comment Navishka.
    I think that it is a fantastic idea too. I am not really questioning Googles brilliance in The Art Project, rather, is there room for presenting their co-branding efforts in a more sensitive way? Art is personal to everyone, and how it is displayed, curated and organised is as much as a contentious issue as art is itself. It is in this contentious issue that Google needs to be mindful, particularly when it comes to art.

    I do agree with you that representing art in this way is nothing new and Google has made a positive contribution in bridging the gap between the museums and the public, which is great, but the ownership/perceived ownership of cultural artefacts needs a cultural sensitivity to maintain the integrity of the artworks. The Art Project should honour the artworks and museums first and foremost rather than be a platform for championing Googles innovation.

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