Google launches online gallery for emerging artists

Google has launched an online art gallery to give emerging artists a chance to display their creations to a larger audience without competing for wall space in a traditional gallery.

With its new Open Gallery, Google joins a growing movement of moving fine art online to offer an alternative venue for artists and give more people access to fine art without traveling to a gallery and paying an entry fee. Tech giants including Amazon and eBay also offer online art galleries, each featuring a range of prints from masters the likes of Picasso to unknown artists, and are joined by a growing industry of independent online galleries such as San Francisco’s startup UGallery.

Google Open Gallery lets artists upload images of their art, videos (uploaded on YouTube), audio and text to create an online exhibition, according to the site. Artists must request an invitation and only those that receive the stamp of Google approval can join, but the company says the site is open to “individual artists and collectors, galleries and museums, and any organization with an archive they want to share.” Bonus — it’s free.

Through the platform, artists can create a new websiteor get enhancements to an existing website. Google Open Gallery makes the technologies behind Google’s cultural projects including Historic Moments and World Wonders.

Amazon’s online gallery, Amazon Art, has been widely embraced by art gallery owners since its launch in August. Art enthusiasts can shop on Amazon from some 4,500 artists and more than 40,000 works of fine art, according to a statement from Amazon. Works include a Chagall worth $285,000 and Andy Warhol works priced above $200,000.

But it also showcases smaller and new artists, and works as cheap as $10. These lesser known and more affordable works are the real appeal of the site to galleries owners. Many say that Amazon Art will help them reach a new clientele — students, art enthusiasts who don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on original art and online consumers already shopping on Amazon. Days after the site launched, a gallery owner in Sonoma called the Mercury News to ask how she could get some of her art onto Amazon Art. Gallery owners at Ethos Contemporary Art in Newport Beach cheered when Amazon added its works to the site just in time for Cyber Monday

Before Google, Amazon was was the largest online company to enter the fine art world, but dozens of smaller sites have launched art galleries in recent years. Among them is Saatchi Online, an online gallery launched in London for promoting new talent to a global audience, and Artspace lets viewers shop art from a Pinterest-like display of fine works from galleries and cultural institutions worldwide. San Francisco-based U Gallery supports students and new and mid-career artists on its site, and its work is also included on Amazon Art.

Even leading galleries are recognizing the need to put work online.

Some argue that online art sites threaten the traditional gallery model — spending an evening browsing fine works in a carefully curated space, meeting an artist and exchanging ideas with friends. But art galleries may remain to art enthusiasts what live concerts are to music fans. While most music has become digital, moved from records and CDs to Spotify and iTunes, fans are still going in droves to concerts and music festivals. The need experience art live and in the moment just isn’t satisfied in the digital world.

Image from Google Open Gallery

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (150 Posts)

Heather Somerville reports on consumer affairs, retail and technology for the Bay Area News Group. She lives in San Francisco, where she enjoys rock climbing, yoga and biking across the Golden Gate Bridge.