Google plays to the galleries

Reina Sofía and Thyssen feature in search engine’s new virtual art tour project


A global initiative with Spanish roots, Google’s Art Project is set to change the way we approach art. The free website (, which was presented in London this week, has two aims: to allow us to view works at a level of detail impossible with the naked eye and to allow us to stroll through the galleries of 17 museums around the world (Spain’s Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza among them) without the joy (or the annoyance) of sharing the shadows, glances and rushing of other visitors.

Knowing such details as the kind of sailboat the Italian artist Vittore Carpaccio suggests atop the watery point of refuge featured in Young Knight in a Landscape (1510) is only possible with an image of 14 billion pixels, a thousand times the detail you get with a normal camera. “I just went in and the resolution is incredible, it’s almost a restorer’s-eye-view,” says Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Reina Sofía Museum, which has submitted the work The Bottle of Anís del Mono by Juan Gris to Google’s eye.

To attain such a high level of definition Google used professional cameras and a tool from Spanish company Madpixel that lets you capture high resolution images from sections of a canvas. Each painting has been photographed to the millimeter in a synchronized way. Millions of individual images were taken during the process, which were then brought together to rebuild the painting using the virtual photo album technology of Google’s Picasa software.

The idea came from Madrid-born Clara Rivera, who was working for Google España when it occurred to her to focus on the search engine’s popular art applications. She was behind the 2009 presentation of a plan for an application allowing people to see various works of art in high resolution from the Prado Museum, a gallery ultimately absent from the final project. “We would love for them to come onboard and the door is open,” she says. Prado management sources this week explained that they did not think this project related to their work in exhibiting and presenting its collections. “That does not imply that we are closed to collaborating with Google again in the future on this or other projects that we consider of interest,” said the same sources.

The figures for Google’s Art Project, which is still in its initial phase, talk of 17 museums, 11 cities in nine countries, 17 gigapixelled paintings, more than 6,000 panoramas of gallery corridors, 1,061 images of works of art in high resolution, 486 artists and 385 rooms.

But what was presented in London is something more than high-resolution images. It is a luxury showcase for Google, which has put its best-known tools into a cocktail shaker and devoted them to art for a year and a half, an aim not intended at the beginning. Google Earth, its application for flying around the globe, now allows you to zoom in on just a few millimeters of a canvas. Street View, its service for walking virtually around city streets, now lets you go inside the corridors of galleries such as the Uffizi in Florence, New York’s MoMA and the Hermitage in St Petersburg. What’s more you can obtain other information about the works with applications such as Google Scholar, Google Docs and YouTube.

Visitors can also become curators of their personal selection of works, comment on them and share their virtual visits with friends.

Will this experience make museum visits redundant? The Reina Sofía’s Borja-Villel doesn’t think so. “It’s just the opposite. All artworks have something physical, even the most conceptual art. The experience of touring a museum is irreplaceable.”

And Clara Rivera agrees: “What this project does is invite people to journey to see the paintings, but we don’t all have the opportunity to travel to New York or Moscow. Now we can access works of art from home.”

The following museums are included in the project:

Palace of Versailles

Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Tate Britain London

Gemäldegalerie Berlin

MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art New York City

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Washington, DC

The Frick Collection New York City

Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza Madrid

The State Tretyakov Gallery Moscow

Museum Kampa Prague

National Gallery London

Museo Reina Sofia Madrid

The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City

The State Hermitage Museum St.Petersburg

Uffizi Gallery Florence

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back


THERE was a time when only beggars went bareheaded. This was some while ago, a century or so. But up until World War II and the period just after, a gentleman was not considered properly dressed without a hat. Even the names of hats were rich in character and historical association.

The bowler, or derby, with the rigid shape of an upended bean pot, was named for a 19th-century English earl who popularized the style. The fedora’s name came from a play of that title, written for Sarah Bernhardt by the otherwise largely forgotten French dramatist Victorien Sardou.

Then the hat went the way of the dodo. Social historians are divided about the cause of the sartorial die-off, although an often repeated canard attributes it to President Kennedy and his rarely covered thatch of luxuriant hair. The real blame probably belongs to automobiles, though. Hats were knocked off when you entered a car and inevitably got squashed beneath a passenger’s wayward behind or went into orbit when you lowered the top to a convertible.

Whatever the reason, there is no arguing with the facts of the hat’s decline. In 1940, there were 180 independent major manufacturers of hats operating in the United States. Today there are 10.

And while it is true that the headwear business is not altogether on the skids (retail sales of hats in the United States are estimated at $1.75 billion annually, roughly 40 percent of that figure being hats sold to men), it would be stretching things to say the future looks bright…

But the best uses of hats in a season that is far from over — the men’s shows in New York begin next week — came at the Paris shows of Dior Homme and Lanvin. While Kris Van Assche, the Dior Homme designer, favored handsome but austere flat-brimmed hats right out of “Witness,” Lucas Ossendrijver, who designs men’s clothes for Lanvin, seemed to have fallen in love with the way a broad-brimmed Borsalino with a suggestively pinched crown instantly sexualized an ordinary two-button suit.

“The theory used to be that in difficult economic times, when a man couldn’t afford to buy an overcoat and a suit, he would pick up his wardrobe with a hat,” Mr. Rongione said. That’s not what’s happening now. Some of the hats on European runways would look perfectly fine on an Average Joe. (O.K., an Average Joe who happens to hang out at the Smile or in the lobby of the Ace Hotel.)

“A regular guy could actually pull off some of these hats,” Mr. Rongione added. “As opposed to something no one in his right mind would wear out of the house.”

Maria Schneider dies aged 58

Maria Schneider, best known as Marlon Brando’s co-star in Last Tango in Paris, has died at the age of 58

Guardian – By Xan Brooks

Maria Schneider, the actor who helped introduce explicit sex to mainstream cinema, has died following a long illness. The 58-year-old is best known for her performance in Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1972 drama Last Tango in Paris – a role that came to both define and destroy her acting career.

Schneider was a teenage model when she landed the role opposite Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris. The film details the relationship between a young Parisian woman and a middle-aged American hotel manager and was notorious for an improvised, butter-assisted sex scene that resulted in a prohibitive X-rating in the US.

The film made Schneider a star, although she later accused Brando and Bertolucci of exploiting her. She described the director as “a gangster and a pimp”, likened the experience to being “raped” and said that Last Tango in Paris had taught her an important lesson: “Never take your clothes off for a middle-aged man who claims that it’s art.”

Bertolucci, for his part, appeared puzzled by the criticism. “It is true that Maria was very young when we shot the film and maybe she couldn’t articulate what happened,” he told the Guardian in 2003. “So what remains is a confused moment where I am the killer or the bad guy.”

Following Last Tango in Paris, Schneider went on to star alongside Jack Nicholson in The Passenger, an existential thriller by director Michelangelo Antonioni. But her subsequent career was hindered by drug addiction and mental illness.

Schneider’s other films include A Woman Like Eve, In the Country of Juliets and the acclaimed Aids drama Savage Nights. Her last significant role was the anguished Mrs Rochester in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Our bedroom secrets by Sally Bercow – ‘Becoming Speaker has turned my husband into a sex symbol’

Evening Standard – By Rashid Razaq and Tom Harper

She is the outspoken and photogenic wife of the House of Commons Speaker and now Sally Bercow has sparked a Westminster storm after revealing their bedroom secrets – while wearing nothing but a sheet.

The outspoken 41-year-old political activist was inundated with online messages today from her followers on Twitter after the revelations in the Evening Standard. Mrs Bercow told how their living quarters in Speaker’s House had helped spice up her love life with Mr Bercow.

She said: “The view from Speaker’s House is incredibly sexy, particularly at night with the moon and the glow from the old gas lamps.

“When John and I were first courting we used to walk along the South Bank and look at the Houses of Parliament. I never realised how sexy I would find living under Big Ben with the bells chiming.”

In an interview with ES magazine, she added that her 47-year-old husband’s elevation to the ancient office has made him a hit with women.

“Politicians as a breed aren’t particularly sexy but I think politics can be sexy because power is an aphrodisiac,” she said. “Since John became Speaker, the number of women who hit on him has gone up dramatically.

“I don’t get jealous because more men have hit on me, too. I think it’s hilarious that I have been referred to as the Carla Bruni of British politics.”

However Mrs Bercow appeared to be less forthcoming after her photographs and interview became public.

She wrote how she had “died of embarrassment” to her 1,800 followers on Twitter, who include David Miliband and Ed Balls. She added: “Oh bugger. I’ve been done up like a kipper. Mr B is going to go potty,” but went on to say: “Tis a great pic though.”

Mrs Bercow has previously infuriated many MPs with outbursts, prompting them to claim she is undermining the Speaker’s office. Shortly before his election to the post, she admitted enjoying binge drinking and one-night stands in her youth.

Princesse Ghislaine de Polignac (1918-2011)

Mystery of the mummy’s Chinese travel ban