On March 17, 2015, Google Art Project announced that it has doubled its world collection of street art from its first incarnation last June, covered in issue #51 of Public Art Review (story below). The project aims to preserve ephemeral street art, and also includes audio tours, online exhibitions, GIF art, and artist stories to provide viewers with a fuller experience and understanding of the work. You can find out about new updates on the Google Art Project Twitter.
Street Art, Meet Google Maps
In its seeming quest to make all things navigable, Google has turned its sights on the half-underground world of street art. The corporation unveiled the Street Art Project—its online museum of graffiti, murals, and wheatpaste—last June, inviting the public to “discover an evolving collection of street art from across the globe” and participate in the celebration of this rogue art form via hashtag.
The Street Art Project manifests as one of Google’s interactive maps, pinned with street art from nearly every continent. Zoom in on Buenos Aires to check out graffiti by Chilean artist Ene Ene, then scroll over to the Philippines to see a wheatpaste from the Gerilya collective.
While the Street Art Project and Google’s interactive maps are officially separate projects, says Laura Scott of Google Cultural Institute, they’re also overlapping.
“We do work very closely with the mapping team,” says Scott. “They help us take photographs, and then we make those available at the Cultural Institute.”
This teamwork is front and center in a short video offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how some of the online displays have been put together. In it, we see a program manager for Google Street View, Pascale Milite, capturing images of The Bestiary, an exhibition of work by Sheffield street artist Phlegm at Howard Griffin Gallery in London.
“This show is entirely noncommercial,” says Richard Howard Griffin in the video. “After it’s finished and closed to the public it’ll be destroyed. All of Phlegm’s fans aren’t going to be able to get here, as much as they’d like to. Therefore [the Street Art Project] is just a really unique way of bringing it to that audience.”
The results of Milite’s image gathering are shown separately in an interactive display that gives viewers the ability to move through the gallery space, zooming in and out on details.
Aside from the mapping features, the project includes a database searchable by artist, city, and medium, though the Cultural Institute has taken pains to establish that its job is not policing genre.
“In the community there are lots of different opinions about what constitutes real graffiti versus street art versus other forms of art,” says Scott. “It’s not Google’s job to get involved in that debate. Our goal is to make available information, make available these works of art.”
Street art enthusiasts can contribute to the conversation—though not the official collection—by taking photos of street art and posting them to social media with the hashtag #streetartproject.
It’s not always possible to get an artist’s permission to show their work, and Google has promised to remove images from its database at the artist’s request. But so far no one has asked them to, says Scott. Since the June rollout of the Street Art Project, “the feedback is great,” she says. “We’ve had lots of fantastic collaborations with our partners and with individual artists. We’re working hard to add more content. It’s a long-term project for us.”
Part 1: Maps in the ‘Hood. Mapping public art: Project Willowbrook.
Part 2: Mapping Cultural Assets. Mapping public art with cultureNOW.
Part 4: The Journey is the Destination. Wayfinding: 100 NYC Public Sculptures.