Google is turning your phone into a virtual museum with its Arts and Culture app. In its latest project, the tech giant has teamed up with Mauritshuis in The Hague — home to the best of Dutch Golden Age paintings — to build an augmented reality (AR) app that creates a virtual art gallery featuring all of Johannes Vermeer’s works.

The pocket gallery, described as the first international online retrospective of Vermeer, is accessible in the Meet Vermeer section. The project brings together all 36 paintings from 18 museums including the most-prized masterpiece, “Girl With a Pearl Earring” and “The Concert”, a Vermeer piece that was stolen in 1990.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

This collaborative venture with famous museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre is truly a special one with each museum contributing high-resolution photographs of respective Vermeer artworks for the virtual tour.

“This is one of those moments when technology does something that you can never do in real life, and that’s because these paintings could never be brought together in real life,” shares Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis.

Some of these 17th century paintings were also too fragile to travel, making it extremely unlikely that all the artworks are able to come together in one place, at the same time.

The Art & Culture app is supported on both iOS and Android camera-equipped smartphones. All you have to do is point your phone at a flat surface, wave it in a circle and see a virtual museum appearing right in front of you. Zoom in and pinch on each of the seven rooms to ‘walk’ through the AR museum. As they land in a gallery, the perspective shifts accordingly – so you really need some space to walk around to enjoy the full immersive experience. Tap on the artwork to find elaborate descriptions and examine it closely.

The Procuress is one of Vermeer's earliest works.
Walk around in a large space to enjoy the full tour of the AR museum.

The first room is dedicated to Vermeer’s earliest works. The rest of the virtual museum is organised thematically, each exploring the various sides of Vermeer’s close relationship to colours, chiaroscuro techniques and the study of faces known as ‘tronies’.

There is no doubt that technology allows you to find resources from a practically endless database of unrestricted geographical borders.

This new AR feature brings not just the audience together but a collaborative effort between museums and galleries to make art even more accessible than before.

The application is supported by both iOS and Android devices.

It complements real visits to a gallery and paves the way for potential developments in the art world – one where technology is harnessed for interaction and deeper comprehension in a much faster way while saving you the price of world travel and museum admission fees.

 

All 36 paintings by Vermeer are now available via Google’s Arts & Culture app.

 

Martin Teo
Content Editor
Martin loves traveling the world to see ancient ruins and classical architecture. He enjoys the culinary experience of various cities but (still) refuses to eat anything insect-like. On a daily basis, he finds time hitting the gym to compensate for the amount of food he needs to eat just to write an article.