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    Google's Street View puts famous art online


    by ODN


    Google's Street View technology is being taken indoors for the first time - into some of the world's most famous art galleries.

    Tate Britain, the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Palace of Versailles in France are among 17 museums which have collaborated with the internet giant to offer 360 degree virtual tours of their galleries.

    Artworks, such as Chris Ofili's elephant-dung piece No Woman, No Cry, will be seen in "extraordinary detail" beyond what is "possible with the naked eye".

    Each museum involved in Google Art Project is showing one of the works in its collection in super-high resolution. Each painting is captured in around seven billion pixels, making their online display around 1,000 times more detailed than an average digital camera.

    The Ofili painting, selected by Tate Britain, is famous for containing tiny images of London teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in 1993, within a woman's teardrops.

    Google has used its Street View technology to enable people to explore 385 gallery rooms around the world in the same way as they can wander down streets virtually with Google Maps.

    Nelson Mattos, vice president of engineering at Google, called the project "a major step forward in the way people are going to interact with these major treasures".

    He denied that the virtual tours of the galleries provided information for potential art thieves, saying: "Like every piece of technology, there's always someone that figures out a way to misuse (it)."

    He joked: "If you're really thinking of stealing a painting, coming to the museum is probably the best way to check the security system."

    London Mayor Boris Johnson called the project a "noble initiative (that) will give millions a unique chance to experience great art collections from around the world, from the comfort of their computer".