Irises. Vincent van Gogh. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

Irises. Vincent van Gogh. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program contributor Drue Kataoka, an artist and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum has written an interesting post about the “emerging ‘open content’ art movement.” She highlights the recent “revolutionary” action taken by The Getty when they “quietly released 5,400 new, high-resolution (800dpi) images from its Getty Research Institute for public use.” Ms. Kataoka goes on to state that there are no fees or restriction for use. “To put this in perspective: Not one of New York’s largest museums — the MoMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan, or the Frick have done that yet.” Other art institutions participating in the open content movement are:

  • Los Angeles’ LACMA,
  • D.C.’s National Gallery of Art
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum
  • Yale University Art Gallery

Google, through the Google Cultural Institute, has the meta-museum “which now includes high-resolution images of artworks from over 300 institutions available online.”  This collection is the largest but image downloads/sharing is restricted.

A couple of benefits of viewing art in high-resolution digital format are highlighted:

  • One can view “minute details” of brushstrokes. Most artwork, in museums, are “under glass or in a case.” One can view artwork “without a magnifying glass, with no time constraint, in the comfort of our homes, and without being rushed (or scolded by a museum guard for getting too close).”
  • Anyone, anytime, anywhere in the world can view and share masterpieces that in the past have been viewable only to “art insiders or elite collectors.”

In conclusion, Ms. Kataoka ponders where this movement will take us in the future. “It is the responsibility of the art world and the tech world to make sure our cultural heritage gets onboard the ‘Noah’s Ark’ of open content. Otherwise, we will live in a world with lots of closed, siloed creative potential — but without access to our shared, collective, creative past. And that will be a world with a less creative future.”