The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is among several California museums included in the global expansion of Google’s pioneering Art Project, originally launched in February of 2011 and now unveiled in a significantly enhanced platform on Tuesday, April 3. An online compilation of high-resolution images and virtual gallery tours from a broad range of art institutions, the Google Art Project now involves 151 partners in 40 countries and enables art lovers everywhere to discover more than 30,000 objects from collections and cultures worldwide—all in one place and just clicks away.
Saluting creativity in its own region—a renown center of innovative thinking—SFMOMA’s initial contribution to the project represents a sampling of the rich history and diversity of art making in the Bay Area, with 26 works by artists such as Robert Bechtle, Joan Brown, Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July, Jim Goldberg, David Ireland, Dorothea Lange, Barry McGee, Eadweard Muybridge, David Park, Leslie Shows, Clyfford Still, Peter Wegner, and Henry Wessel, among others. Visitors to SFMOMA’s pages of the Art Project will be able to access video footage, biographies, and deep insight into the work of all these artists without ever leaving the interface.
Although SFMOMA’s collection has grown to become truly international in both scope and importance, its effort to explore the most compelling work of the region has remained a significant focus since the museum’s founding in 1935. SFMOMA will expand its offerings to the Google Art Project in the coming months to include works by more national and international artists.
“SFMOMA is widely acknowledged as a leader among museums worldwide for our inventive approach to online engagement, and this exciting project furthers our commitment to extend compelling experiences with contemporary art into the digital realm,” says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “We are thrilled to join with Google and our forward-thinking museum partners to broaden access to art, which is so crucial to cultural vitality and particularly important at a time when many schools are struggling to provide even minimal arts education.”
“Over the past decade SFMOMA has explored various strategies for enhancing the museum experience through digital outreach,” says Chad Coerver, Chief Content Officer at SFMOMA. “For us Google’s Art Project is less about unmooring objects in our collection from their onsite context, and more about creating an opportunity for online audiences to delve into museums’ collective knowledge, share their own virtual collections, and participate in an international conversation about art.”
Users can browse Google Art Project content by artist name, artwork titles, medium, museum, country, or time period. The “create an artwork collection” feature allows users to save specific views of any artwork and build their own personalized collections. Comments can be added to each painting and the whole collection can then be shared, making the platform ideal for group collaboration. Using the “discover” tool, online visitors can also easily explore works across participating partners, going deeper into works by a particular artist represented in multiple collections.
An Early Adopter of Technology
Reflecting the Bay Area’s legacy of pioneering new technologies and ideas, SFMOMA is known for using innovative means to engage audiences, both onsite and online. From its award-winning website—one of the first launched by a U.S. art museum—and prizewinning interpretive CD-ROMs of the 1990s to its innovative podcasts and multimedia gallery tours of the 2000s, SFMOMA has consistently forged new models for museum education, interpretation, and communication. With resources like the Making Sense of Modern Art Mobile interactive gallery guide and the Country Dog Gentlemen Gallery Game (now also an iPhone app), SFMOMA has continued to pursue advances in digital media in order to tell the stories of modern and contemporary art in fresh ways.
Focus on Education
Since SFMOMA opened its current Mario Botta building in 1995, the museum collection has more than doubled in size, annual attendance has tripled, family and educational programs have increased fivefold, and teacher-training programs have increased sixfold. Over 68,000 students come through SFMOMA’s doors each year, and 37,000 families with children ages 4 to 11 enjoy SFMOMA’s resources annually. Since 2008, with the support of seed grants from The Wallace Foundation, SFMOMA has furthered its commitment to early arts education by creating a suite of family-friendly materials available for free every day both onsite and online. These include a new mobile game for families, family guides based on specific artists in SFMOMA’s collection, and the children’s library in the Koret Center Family Lounge. SFMOMA’s partnership with Google will complement this range of educational programs and help maximize the educational value of art for audiences everywhere.
Known for groundbreaking exhibitions, a world-class collection, and an iconic building, SFMOMA is a hub of innovation in the global art community and a cultural beacon on the West Coast. SFMOMA’s 27,000-piece collection—international in scope, while reflecting the distinctive character of our region—spans all media and includes works by both modern masters and the most exciting contemporary artists. Located in San Francisco’s vibrant Yerba Buena cultural district, the museum recently opened a stunning new Rooftop Garden showcasing signature sculptures from the collection. SFMOMA’s exhibition program has become one of the world’s strongest, offering major touring surveys of the work of Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, Luc Tuymans, and Jeff Wall. Founded in 1935, SFMOMA has always been a forward-looking institution, dedicated not only to preserving the past but to embracing the future. Now the museum is looking ahead to the next phase in its evolution: an expansion that will significantly enhance the public’s access to and enjoyment of SFMOMA programs and provide a new home for the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, one of the finest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world.