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Google wants street art to last forever

Argentine urban artist Ever’s Roa (2013), from the collaborative piece The People Feed Communism to the Beast.

A new project features more than 5,000 images, 700 of which are from Argentina

Google has announced a new project today dedicated to documenting transient art and making it accessible for everyone on the Internet, everywhere, all the time. The Street Art Project already boasts over 5,000 images and 100 locations culled from around the world. While online sharing of such images is nothing new, Google’s official foray into the preservation of street art may be the most mainstream legitimization of an art form viewed contentiously by some.

The Street Art Project, which launched yesterday, currently showcases photographed works from 30 international organizations based in Columbia, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, France, Chile, Italy, Belgium. Other stateside street art organizations with works included in the rollout are based in New York and Dallas. The database is searchable by artist, city, genre and other categories, and even includes a special section on New York walls of the 1990s.

The New York Times wrote that “in a sense, Google is formalizing what street art fans around the world already do: take pictures of city walls and distribute them on social media. Yet for Google to do so could raise concerns, given the criticism of its aggressive surveillance tactics, especially in Europe, where its Street View satellite mapping is widely seen as a violation of privacy.” The Times also reported that, in an attempt to “avoid offence,” Google will only include images “provided by organizations that sign a contract attesting that they own the rights to them. It will not cull through Street View images but will provide the technology to organizations that want to use it to record street art legally. Some groups have provided exact locations of the artworks; others have not.”

Latin America is proudly represented to the tune of 1,175 works coming from eight artistic groups based in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico. In fact, the whole idea of the Street Art Project originated in Brazil and was inspired by the large number of attention-worthy urban art pieces.

Latin American urban art is fuelled by a greater freedom of painting on street walls and drawing inspiration from a quite a wide array of topics, ranging from daily life to political statements.

The leading Latin American participant in Google’s new project is Argentine artistic group Graffiti Mundo, with 309 works available online. Estilo Libre, with 160 images, and Buenos Aires Street Art, with 202 works, are the other two Argentine groups featured in this project.

Google Cultural Institute’s director Amit Sood says the project’s mission is to turn the world into “one huge open-air gallery for everyone to enjoy.”

“These works of art that decorate our streets do not always hang about for long, which is why we’re delighted to work with partners around the globe to help them tell a story of street art around the globe,” Sood said, referring to environmental and societal elements that threaten to destroy works of art created in public space. “I’m not treating street art as anything different from what I would do with the Impressionist collection I’m getting on Art Project,” said Sood, referring to a philanthropic initiative that has provided technical support to more than 460 museums to help put their collections online.

Herald with Reuters, AP

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