Google Adds New AR Galleries & Audio Guided Tour to Arts & Culture App

With NFTs taking the art world by storm, it’s a bit refreshing to know that you can enjoy world famous masterpieces in the comfort of your own home via augmented reality without emptying your cryptocurrency wallet.

And that’s what you get with the Google Arts & Culture app, which adds three new Pocket Galleries with world-famous masterpieces, one of which emulates guided tours in real-world museums.

This week, the Google Arts & Culture team introduced Pocket Galleries featuring works from the Jean Pigozi Collection, featuring 40 pieces from African and Japanese artists, and Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum, highlighting 200 years of art history from the likes Henri Rousseau, Jean-Antoine Watteau, and Gerrit van Honthorst.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

“These treasures are frequently lent to museums across the globe, but until now have never had a dedicated building of their own, making this Pocket Gallery a truly unique space,” said Michelle Luo, product manager for Google Arts & Culture, in a statement.

The third gallery, Brushes with the World, features artist’s depictions of cities and countrysides from 24 countries across the globe, with 27 institutions contributing pieces to the collection. The AR experience also adds audio, including narration and sound effects, as you gaze upon the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Hokusai, Habeeb Andu, and others.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

“As you approach each masterpiece, you will hear a bespoke soundscape inspired by the locations and objects in the paintings. Some paintings are even accompanied by additional commentary to help you learn more along your voyage,” says Luo.

For example, the gallery features Edvard Munch’s iconic painting The Scream, which is accompanied by the narrator’s brief explanation of its background, atmospheric synthesizer notes, and the faint echoes of what sound like tortured souls in the distance.

Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

The AR galleries are available in the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS and Android (except the audio tour, which will be available “soon” on iOS).

To access them, tap the camera button on the home screen, select Pocket Gallery from the camera menu, and then download your desired specimen from the carousel. After placing a dollhouse replica of the gallery in your personal space, you can then expand it to life size and walk around the virtual space to view the art exhibited within.

Previous entries in the Pocket Gallery series have featured the works of Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer, among others, as well as virtual recreations of historic places like Chauvet Cave and Bagerhat.

While its intent is to share art with the masses, the Google Arts & Culture team’s AR innovations also serve as an example of how artists could start experimenting with NFTs (non-fungible tokens). We’re already seeing NFT creators move in this direction with the virtual masks of MF Doom and 3D sneakers from Adidas. But wouldn’t it be really cool to able to explore your $500,000 virtual home as a Pocket Gallery-style experience? I think so.

Cover image via Google