With Tilt Brush, an artist turns his virtual world into reality

Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from British portrait painter Jonathan Yeo.

From photography to the printing press, to modern computing, art and technology have always influenced one another. And the artist’s toolkit is expanding with new mediums like virtual reality. As a portrait artist who primarily works with oil paint in two dimensions, drawing in three- dimensional space was unknown territory for me. Until recently, I’ve never created art using VR technology, but with Google Arts and Culture and the help of Tilt Brush engineers, I brought VR and sculpture together to create something that was more than just an experiment.


Defying gravity: an epic stunt at the Guggenheim Bilbao

When the Guggenheim Bilbao museum opened 20 years ago it was described by many as a starship from outer space. Its swirling roof is made of paper-thin titanium tiles—33,000 of them—covering the building like fish scales. At the time, it was such a novelty that the museum had to commission a chemical laboratory to produce a custom liquid to clean the titanium!

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Guggenheim Bilbao (photo by Trashhand)

The museum was an unusual experiment not just because of its gleaming shell. Over two decades ago, following the collapse of the traditional industries Bilbao was built on, the city was scarred with industrial wastelands, abandoned factories, and a community afflicted by unemployment and social tensions. Bilbao surprised the world (and raised a few eyebrows) with a unique idea to kickstart the city’s regeneration, and they set out to build—not new factories or new roads—but instead a new center for modern art.

Since then, the museum has attracted 19 million visitors and became the epicenter of the urban renewal that rippled through Bilbao. Today it stands as an icon of the city and its successful self-transformation. To celebrate the Guggenheim’s 20th anniversary, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the museum to bring their stories to you and show it from a new angle.

But how do you find a new angle on one of the world’s most photographed buildings? Google invited Johan Tonnoir—known for running and jumping across Paris’s busy rooftops with only a pair of sturdy shoes—to the Guggenheim.

Johan explored the building in his own way … through a breathtaking stunt-run across the building and its iconic slippery roof. He climbed to the highest peak and jumped, flipped and leapt from one wing of the roof to the other at 50 meters high. And all along, urban photographer Trashhand from Chicago followed him with his lens.

Check out the museum’s masterpieces on Google Arts & Culture (but please don’t try to do it Johan’s way…). You can see all this online at g.co/guggenheimbilbao or in the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android.

Bavarian State Library and Google celebrate 10 years of partnership

Ten years ago the venerable Bavarian State Library from Munich (BSB) and the comparatively young Google started their joint adventure: the digitization of hundreds of thousands of historical writings from the archives of the BSB and its Bavarian regional libraries. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of our collaboration, we’ve published a digital exhibition on Google Arts & Culture.

The BSB looks back on almost 500 years of history. In 1558 it was founded by Duke Albrecht V. With more than 10 million volumes, 61,000 current journals and 130,000 manuscripts, the library is one of the most important knowledge centers in the world.

To preserve that heritage, BSB has been working with Google since 2007 to digitize over 1.9 million copyright-free titles—such as books, maps and magazines—from the 17th to the end of the 19th century. Thanks to this partnership, BSB is now the largest digital database of all German libraries. The project has long been expanded and now covers the holdings of the ten regional state libraries such as Regensburg, Passau or Augsburg.

Not only for us at Google this clearly is a milestone in digitization and the prototype of a public-private partnership. Klaus Ceynowa, Managing Director of BSB, adds: “Content in context is our mantra. Google has played a major role in helping us achieve it!”

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Tausend und eine Nacht : arabische Erzählungen, One Thousand and One Nights: Arabic stories” (1872), Weil, Gustav
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“Atlas Minor: Ein kurtze jedoch gründtliche Beschreibung der gantzen Welt und aller ihrer Theyl” (1631), Gerard Mercator
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“The lion” – Illustration from “The small menagerie – drawings of the most extraordinary wild animals” (1854)
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“The Zeitgeist and the people, a mirror of the sins of the world: An Octoberfest-Sermon” (1835)

Exploring contemporary art with Google Arts & Culture

Working with more than 180 partners all over the world, Google Arts & Culture is shining a light on contemporary art, with a new collection of online stories and rich digital content at g.co/ContemporaryArt.

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Through an immersive digital journey, we bring you straight to the institutions housing the world’s seminal contemporary art collections with the help of high quality visuals, gigapixel resolution images—which allow you to zoom into the tiny details of a piece of art, and panoramic Museum View imagery. You can hear amazing stories about art from curators, artists, and experts from institutions all over the world.

With a repository of online exhibits and editorial features, we answer common questions about the contemporary art world, introduce you to the world’s leading contemporary artists and icons, and perhaps most importantly, the issues that are shaping art today.

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Here are some of our favorites:

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Explore more stories and immersive digital content on contemporary art from over 180 partners around the world with the Google Arts and Culture app on Android and iOS.

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Something’s coming … “West Side Story” on Google Arts & Culture

“In the olden days, everybody sang.”

Those are the words of Leonard Bernstein, composer behind the iconic musical “West Side Story,” where everyone danced and snapped through the streets, too. Whether you’re a Jet all the way or you side with the Sharks, Tony and Maria’s love story is as poignant today as it was 60 years ago, when the Broadway musical first debuted.

In partnership with Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Museum of the City of New York and the National Museum of American Jewish History, Google Arts & Culture is launching a new collection honoring “West Side Story.” Bringing together artifacts and mementos from the making of the musical and movie, behind-the-scenes photographs, and a peek into the modern-day representation of the musical, this collection explores the history, artistic value and social relevance of “West Side Story.” Check it out at g.co/westsidestory and on the Google Arts & Culture app (available on Android and iOS).

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    Stephen Sondheim on piano and Leonard Bernstein standing amongst female singers rehearsing for “West Side Story.”

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    Leonard Bernstein’s personal annotated copy of “Romeo and Juliet.” He made several notes for adapting Shakespeare’s play into a contemporary musical.
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    Excited crowds gathered outside the Erlanger Theatre in Philadelphia to see “West Side Story,” during its two week out-of-town tryout before it opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 26, 1957.
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    Natalie Wood (pictured at piano with Jerome Robbins) was the last principal cast in the movie. She recorded Maria’s songs, but ultimately her singing was dubbed by an uncredited Marni Nixon.
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    The Prologue sequence lasted twice as long on screen as on stage. The magic of cinema blended locations on the Upper West Side and East Harlem (where the playground scenes were shot).
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    In 1959, photographer Bruce Davidson observed and photographed a teenage gang in Brooklyn, New York, capturing the spirit of post-war youth culture that inspired the rival gangs of “West Side Story.” This photo is one is called “Man in sunglasses smoking.”

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    In an interview, Carol Lawrence (who played Maria in “West Side Story” on Broadway) remembers the photo shoot for the iconic image of Maria and Tony running down the street.
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    360-video of “Cool”, one of the most popular songs of the musical, performed at the Knockdown Center in Queens, NY as part of Carnegie Hall’s, The Somewhere Project.
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    From March 4–6, 2016, three extraordinary performances of “West Side Story” were presented at the Knockdown Center, a restored factory in Queens. The production brought together high school–aged apprentice performers joining the cast, and a 200-voice youth choir adding a new dimension to Leonard Bernstein’s iconic score.

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    With a colorblind approach to casting, the audience was able to identify the Sharks and the Jets through their clothing rather than by the color of the members’ hair or skin.