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What is "Google Arts and Culture"?

[BLOG POST 5/23/24] Dear reader, have you heard about "Google Arts and Culture"? It is a "non-commercial initiative that works with cultural institutions and artists around the world. Together, our mission is to preserve and put the world’s art and culture online so it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere."

Basically it is an online search engine dedicated to art and culture from around the world all at your fingertips.

Pretty cool!!!

They have daily top picks of art from around the world, cultural crosswords, "Partner of the day" with different institutions, daily topics, personalized recommendations, artwork searches by color/style/time period/themes/collections/etc, 3D virtual tours of museums from around the world, experiments, treasure hunts, games, and more!

You can spend hours being entertained and touring the world's astounding art from the comfort and ease of your home.

Recently I used it to check out marble sculptures in the State Hermitage Museum

located in St. Peterburg, Russia (pictured above). It was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired a collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. It has been open to the public since 1852 and in 2022 the Art Newspaper ranked the museum 10th in their list of the most visited art museums, with 2,812,913 visitors.

It has over three million items in its collections and only a small part is on permanent display.

I got to visit it as a college student back in the 1990s and remember being struck by its overwhelming size and ornate style. As I recall we had about half a day to explore. Even though we were in our 20s and full of energy, running through the halls, we only saw only a tiny fraction of what was there.

Anyway, on this virtual tour the marble portrait (above) caught my eye and I learned that:

This portrait of a young woman is an outstanding work in the Hermitage collection. It has long been known as a portrait of a Syrian woman because of the semitic facial features. The work of a Greek sculptor, it was probably part of a funerary statue. Intimate, without any sense of majesty, the elegant head crowned with its high hairstyle leans slightly to one side. The large eyes indicate that she is deep in her own thoughts, and there is a slight smile on her lips. This Syrian woman is full of amazing charm, her mood dominated by melancholy with a hint of scepticism, a not uncommon mixture in Roman portraits of the late 2nd century AD, when mystical oriental cults were widespread, and Christianity was also gaining strength. Amongst the philosophical tendencies, Stoicism, which called upon people to bravely bear the lot apportioned to them, was particularly popular. Perhaps this contemporary of the Stoicist Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) shared his philosophical views.

Granted there is a lot of speculation in that description but it was fun to read and I learned some interesting facts.

I also enjoyed some of Google Arts and Culture's games which use AI to generate poems and alternative versions of paintings. For example, they offered several paintings to choose and once you select one you can have AI write a haiku/sonnet/limerick/ode/ballad/etc about it or generate a new image using different keywords.

For example:

Screenshot of Google Arts & Culture Game

Screenshot of Google Arts & Culture Game

Screenshot of Google Arts & Culture Game

They also offer more in-depth articles accompanied by beautiful photographs of artwork creating an immersive experience that is fun to read. Here is one article about the women not typically discussed in British art with a modern twist: "The Real Housewives of English Castles".

Screenshot of Google Arts & Culture article

Whereas nothing can replace seeing artwork live and in person this search engine tool is fun, well organized, holds a massive amount of information, and is educational. Check it out! And, if you make a painting into a poem, please email it to me!

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