Google hopes to assuage privacy mavens by curating street art captured by its cameras, reports Rachel Donadio in The New York Times (6/10/14). "It helps make people realize we are doing a lot of things that actually support the community," says Amit Sood, director of the Paris-based Google Cultural Institute, "a philanthropic initiative that has provided technical support to more than 460 museums to help put their collections online." Amit says he’s treating the street art the same as he’s treated more traditional works.
Pieces are contributed by various "cultural organizations worldwide" and in some cases the images were captured by Google Street View. The initiative puts Google in the middle of "debates about how or whether to institutionalize, let alone commercialize, art that is ephemeral and often willfully created subversively. A private database of public art, it also poses questions about how to legally preserve what in some cases might be considered vandalism." At least a couple of artists basically like the idea, however.
"I’ve always used my street art to democratize art, so it would be philosophically inconsistent for me to protest art democratization through Google," says Shepard Fairey. A Belgian artist called ROA also says it’s fine with him "as long as they credit the mural to me, and it’s not being used for commercial purposes or corporations." Google says it will exclude commercial interests from the database (link), which is "searchable by artist, city, genre and other categories." It will also require contributors to confirm their rights to the images.