Cultural Institute prompts art debate

Google has recently launched a high-tech art gallery at the Cultural Institute in Paris. Spearheaded by Bombay native Amit Sood, the project’s goal is to digitally replicate and curate all art and culture around the globe.

The Cultural Institute’s website has digital galleries about everything from the history of cake to the history of Native Americans on America’s waterways. Sood and his colleague Laurent Gaveau have created archives of street art, Lahore crafts, textiles and more. Though the digitization of art allows people around the world to access historical works of art, some critics remain unconvinced.

According to a recent article by the BBC, Newscorp Chief Executive Thomson called the project, “a platform for piracy.” Because museums would release the digitized, high resolution images of art works to the internet, virtually anyone could download the images or hack the museums’ systems and reprint the art illegally.

“Of course I could be hacked,” Sood said. “I don’t know if there’s a teenager sitting somewhere wanting all the Rembrandts.”

Not only are skeptics concerned about random hackers selling digitized art, but they are afraid of the big wig Google corporation obtaining rights to all art.

If all artwork is available online in high resolution format, will museums lose business? Will this detract from cultural appreciation? When questioned about these ideas by the New York Times, Sood defended himself.

“Physical attendance at museums is rising at a rate never seen before,” he said, “especially in countries and museums that have cool digital initiatives.”

Fears that this new technology will ruin the experience of viewing art are prime concerns for a lot of people. However, with this change in art culture, there is the positive outcome of increased availability of artwork. This project is designed for people in communities with limited access to art.

It’s possible that skeptics of Sood’s project may be more concerned about who owns the art than who gets to view it. After all, isn’t art created for enjoyment? Art isn’t only intended to be bought and sold, but enjoyed, so why should only certain people be allowed to view it?

On the website of the Cultural Institute, users can create their own personal galleries in order to compile their favorite works in a location where they can access them easily. This accessible and interesting tool simplifies the enjoyment of art for many.

At galleries, visitors can use computers to zoom in on the details of paintings in order to see even the slightest brush stroke. Sood defended these innovations, saying, “So for me, the route into the person’s mind to get more interested in culture, history or wonders can be many.”

So far, Google’s Art Initiative has had a reasonable amount of success. Over 850 museums, archives and foundations in 61 countries have expressed interest in the project thus far. Sood chose to launch the project in Paris to confront skeptics at full force and despite this risky decision, he has been met with enough success to give the initiative hope for expanding in the future.

Danielle Sovereign ’18 ( is from South Chicago Heights, Ill. She majors in English.