Save the travel expenses, carbon emissions, entry fees and time spent on tiptoes or shuffling around crowds of loud tourists--Google's Art Project will bring you up close to masterpieces from 17 world class galleries. So far the arsenal includes 4 collections from the USA, 2 from Germany, Spain, the UK, The Netherlands and Russia and 1 from the Czech Republic, France and Italy.
The museums involved made the decisions on what artwork and information to include, but it's up to you what to extract.
My virtual visit to Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, opened the door to Juan Gris' early 20th century Cubist portraits, shot with Street View technology and multi-angled shots that gave the paintings more life and richer history. Most of these museums are offering a mere glimpse of their collections, but since I don't think I will be making it to Moscow and the State Tretyakov Gallery any time soon, I'll take what I can get. And with more than 1,000 pieces already up for viewing, it's enough to get the virtual curator in me starting her own collection.
Perks of the project include ultra high-resolution (gigapixel!) images, and art junkies can round out their experience by watching interviews and behind the scenes footage hosted on You Tube. While this won't be competition for the gallery experience, it will be a great tool to broaden access and engage curious museum goers.