Google Capturing Global Street Art Images in New Online Exhibition

Because intricately crafted street art can disappear without warning, the Google Art Project hopes to preserve it in image galleries online.


Google has been gathering more than 5,000 images of ornate and beautiful street art from around the world in a series of some 100 exhibits as it works to preserve artworks that can fade, be vandalized or even be forcibly removed in the communities where they are on public display.

The creation of the online image collections, which are being done as part of the Google Art Project venture, was unveiled by Lucy Schwartz, the program manager for the Google Cultural Institute, and by Julie Pottier, the Institute's marketing manager, in a June post on the Google Europe Blog.

"Here today, gone tomorrow," wrote Schwartz and Pottier. "The transient nature of street art means it can be at risk of being scrubbed out and lost forever to its legions of fans. But long after the paint has faded from the walls, technology can help preserve street art, so people can discover it wherever and whenever they like."

That's where the new online image collections come in to help ensure that the best of the hand-crafted images on the world's streets are saved for future fans and art critics, they wrote. "We've partnered with street art experts to bring you 5,000+ images and around 100 exhibitions in the Google Art Project—telling a story of street art around the world."

The images so far include a colorful and amazing mural of a prowling fox on a wall in Setubal, Portugal; an ornate mural of a decorated animal in Lodz, Poland; and trompe l'oeil techniques that use physical details of the wall itself to trick the viewer's eye through brush strokes, patterns and colors, according to Google.

"From Poland to Portugal; London to Vienna, the styles of work vary considerably," wrote Schwartz and Pottier. "There are stickers in France, sculptures in London and portraits of rappers on the streets of Malaga [Spain]. It's not just about spray paint either—other exhibits demonstrate the signature style of the artist, like JR's large-scale and evocative photo-portraits, Roa's animals, Vhils' acid etching or Os Gemeos' surrealism."

One of the key benefits of the collection is that it also allows viewers to see what is already gone from the world's street art exhibits, they wrote. "Using Street View, you can also explore buildings with street art that are closed to the public, or that have already been demolished—such as the famed Paris 13 tower," wrote Schwartz and Pottier. The now-defunct tower previously had nine floors containing 450 square meters of intricately painted ceilings and walls.

"In a series of fascinating exhibitions by our partners, you can also learn about the origins of the street art movement or see how Street Art is being used in Poland to revitalize its cities," they wrote. "Take a tour through the work of artists from the infamous Bristol graffiti scene and get wild about nature in Portugal."

The collection includes a huge variety of works that are visually stunning and pleasing, as well as creative and whimsical. "Street art may be temporary on our walls and sidewalks, but its beauty and vibrancy live on, on the Web," wrote Schwartz and Pottier. "Take a look— you're sure to be bowled over by the variety of the urban canvas."

Google is always busy expanding its growing online collections of art, cultures, destinations and more.

In June, Google explored the lush beauty of Greece and its rich history that dates back centuries with a first-ever collection of Street View images, making it the 56th nation where Google has unveiled its special cameras. For years, opposition from the Greek government due to privacy concerns kept the Street View cameras out of the country, but negotiations eventually resolved the objections and enabled the images to be collected. Now armchair visitors can see many of the amazing sights of this gorgeous Mediterranean country through the images, including landmarks such as the Corfu Old Town, the White Tower in Thessaloniki and the Arch of Hadrian in the center of Athens.

Also in June, Google's Street View cameras highlighted the 12 sports stadiums across Brazil where the games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup are being played, as well as local streets across Brazil that are painted by neighborhood residents to celebrate the World Cup tournament. The residents paint their streets with decorative messages and images in the spirit of the games, while also decorating with streamers, flags and other items to give the streets a life of their own in color and images that portray their love of the sport.

In April, the Google Cultural Institute presented a new collection of stunning images that bring the beauty and history of the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris to online visitors. The beautiful, grand and opulent opera house, which has 11 stories and 1,979 seats, has been hosting performances since it opened in 1875.