I love a tidy desktop, especially on a large home computer screen. At home, I often utilize my large computer monitor as another "blank space" to place and enjoy art images, uploading and changing my desktop wallpaper with different artworks as the seasons and my mood/interests change. Late this spring, I was happy to run across a Google extension for the Chrome browser that refreshes new tabs with artworks chosen at random from art museums/galleries/collections from all around the world.
The Google Art Extension is part of the larger Google Cultural Institute project that has been working to help digitize and make available exhibits and collections from museums and archives around the world. One of the main arms of this larger initiative is the Google Art Project which allows users to browse and virtually visit many art galleries and museums from around the world. With the click of a button, the extension is simply added to Chrome and works immediately to present a new randomly chosen artwork with each new opened tab. At the bottom of your screen, there is a link with information that takes you over to the Google Cultural Institute to learn more about the art and artist. A great additional feature is that each image is categorized and tagged with several other topics, so that you can explore the form, content, or context of an art object and see how it is connected to a larger world of art. Oh, and if you don't care for the art you were presented on any given day, or want to explore more works, you can simply hit the refresh button next to the link at the bottom of the page and voila, new artworks appear!
Some years ago, I blogged about Google Art Project when it first launched and talked about its status as a cabinet of curiosities, speculating on what was at stake with how it was presented and what would come of the site. Last year I finally began to work more directly with Google Art Project in my survey art history courses as a way to introduce students to particular art objects up close and in a far more detailed way than a traditional art slide could provide. I also encouraged students to virtually tour museums on the site and look at works of lesser known art or work by lesser known artists that were still meaningfully connected to the canonical artworks we studied in class. Over time, I have come to utilize Google Art Project as a great resource for student research (you can create your own galleries to compare and contrast high-quality images) and as a means through which to interrogate and question the way art exhibitions are curated and planned. That is not to say I have completely been seduced by the initiative, but I am glad to see the inclusion of non-Western art and a healthy selection of street and urban art projects as among the images popping up on my screen. The only downside is that you may find yourself carried down the rabbit hole once you begin to explore the many dimensions of these artworks!