Fortunately, there's Google. Being the geniuses they are, Google has created a really cool product called Google Art Project, which allows users to explore some of the most famous pieces of artwork, by some of the most famous artists, in some of the most famous museums in the world. The best part of all? It's free and you can explore from the comfort of your own living room.
To get started, visit http://www.googleartproject.com. Here, you are greeted with a randomly generated piece of artwork and a bunch of search options (it's Google, what did you expect?). In the top-left corner of the screen, you have five search options:
- The little person icon allows you to do virtual tours, much like Google Street View, except you're in a museum.
- The Collections tab allows you to search collections of artwork.
- The Artists tab allows you to search by artist.
- The Artworks tab is a great way to expose yourself to new artwork from a variety of artists.
- and the User Galleries allows you to search galleries others have created (kind of hit or miss).
One of my favorite artists is Vincent van Gogh. To search for him, I simply typed Vincent into the search bar and was able to find a number of results.
The search results narrowed it down to Artists, Artworks and Galleries. I selected the Vincent van Gogh option under the Artists section. This gave me a list of his artwork. I clicked on one of my very favorite pieces of all time, The Starry Night.
In this view, I can see the image in detail. I can zoom in as close as I want to really grasp the fine workmanship. If I click on Details, at the top, I can see where the artwork is located. In this case, The Starry Night is found in The Museum of Modern Art, on the 5th floor. If I want to explore that floor, all I have to do is click on the little person icon and it takes me to that floor!
There's The Starry Night, right in front of me. I can then move around and see other works of art in this museum.
One of the best parts of the Google Art Project is the ability to add your favorite images to your own collections. This allows you to "bookmark" your favorite works, add comments to them and share them with others. To add an image to your collections, simply click on the icon on the left-hand toolbar that looks like a mini-Tetris game.
Here, you can add your favorite image to previously created galleries or make a new gallery. In some of the other views, like the Artwork view, you can quickly add images one after another by pressing the same Tetris-like icon, which will appear in the top-left corner of the pictures.
The Google Art Project has been around for awhile, but it gets better all the time. Google just announced a major addition to their collection, so even if you've been before it's worth seeing again.
You can check out a quick gallery of some of my favorites by clicking here: http://g.co/artproject/q8gv.