When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


Why Google Can Never Replace A Guggenheim

The Google Art Project, according to Florentine art curator Francesco Bonami, will never match wandering through a museum.

A digital dissection of a Vermeer classic (flickr)

One might be tempted to think that nobody will ever set foot in a museum again after Google unveiled its upcoming art project, which will make high-definition, digitized masterpieces from the world's top museums just a click away.

But think back to the VCR era when people started watching films at home. It was feared that people would stop going to the cinema. Did they? No. Will people stop visiting museums? Of course not!

That's how Nelson Mattos, a vice president of engineering at Google, sees it. "I first set foot in a famous museum when I was studying abroad. I can still recall the emotion I felt as I wandered about."

And there's the nub of the matter. Viewing artwork on a computer will never substitute the pleasure of roaming around a gallery. In the same way that sitting in a dark room and sharing with others the emotions of the silver screen can never quite be matched by a VHS, DVD or movie downloaded on your computer. No acoustic system, no matter how sophisticated, will prompt the same emotions as listening to live opera in a theater.

In the same vein, however big the plasma TV, there's nothing like being in the stadium supporting your favorite football team, or in the stands at Wimbledon during a final between Federer and Nadal.

Technology is fantastic, and it certainly changes the way we see reality. Yet, it cannot change the way in which reality moves us. Emotion is also a matter of scale. We might admire the most amazing pictures of the Grand Canyon or the Matterhorn, but once you're there, the sheer majesty of these landscapes will stir unique emotions. The Google Art Project might enable us to observe any brush stroke, crack or line of a famous painting, but standing in front of it is a different story.

Standing in front of Paolo Veronese's "The Feast in the House of Levi", one of the largest canvases painted in 16th century, is quite a different experience from looking at it on a computer screen, even though digitally we might see things that would escape the naked eye.

The same goes for smaller works such as Vermeer's. One can only savor the intimacy of these works by standing in front of them. Often, it's not the details of a work that the painter wants to transmit. An artist, however famous or unknown, typically wants to convey an emotion, share a thought, in the most immediate way possible. It is the novel as a whole that we fall in love with, not the individual words in the text, even though a linguist might study those words individually. Equally, with a painting, it's not a single brush stroke but the combination of all brush strokes that makes it powerful, touching, beautiful or ugly.

Google might enable us get underneath the colors of a painting, make us see the tiniest crack, make us feel like the shrunk-down characters in that movie about people traveling through the human body. But just like those characters cannot explore the thoughts and ideas of the person inside whose body they are traveling, we will never, through a digital museum experience, experience the same feeling as when we are wandering around a museum for real.

Google can never reproduce the feeling of finding ourselves in front of a masterpiece we thought we knew through countless reproductions only to discover it's something completely different, more profound and unique. Or even to discover that we are disappointed, expecting that something extra that technology, with its overzealousness, had revealed, which in the mind of the artist should have remained hidden.

Read the original article in Italian

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

That Man In Mariupol: Is Putin Using A Body Double To Avoid Public Appearances?

Putin really is meeting with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelganger for meetings and appearances.

screen grab of Putin in a dark down jacket

During the visit to Mariupol, the Presidential office only released screen grabs of a video

Russian President Press Office/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Have no doubt, the Vladimir Putin we’re seeing alongside Xi Jinping this week is the real Vladimir Putin. But it’s a question that is being asked after a range of credible experts have accused the Russian president of sending a body double for a high-profile visit this past weekend in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

Russian opposition politician Gennady Gudkov is among those who confidently claim that a Putin look-alike, or rather one of his look-alikes, was in the Ukrainian city.

"Now that there is a war going on, I don't rule out the possibility that someone strongly resembling or disguised as Putin is playing his role," Gudkov said.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest