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Submitted on
September 13, 2013
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The J. Paul Getty Museum has initiated an Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible.

A first sharing of 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection, including many masterworks, has just been made available and all are free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose.

In a brilliant stroke, the Getty Museum has liberated one of the top collections of art in the world not just for access but for use. The museum is literally “beaming up” the great works in its collection as living resources within the arts themselves, for study, for sheer personal pleasure and, remarkably, as free visual resources available to any artist or business anywhere for anything and for free!

It is a watershed moment in the evolution of the social responsibilities of organizations that collect exquisite art as a part of a public trust—the moment when the J. Paul Getty Museum and Trust, arguably housing the most influential brain-trust for the curation and preservation of art in the world, decides to trust the public, instead of just themselves, with setting the context and use of these works.

It is a classic paradox of opposites where the strongest bend and where the most power comes from never exercising it: the best preservation of the relevance of these cultural artifacts is to be found in their widespread diffusion into the general culture.

The extraordinarily special element in this release is that the paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, sculptures—these monumental works of art—are now accessible in a way that even a personal trip to the museum could never provide. The files are incredible, high resolution images showing a depth and detail that only an archivist in a sealed room would have been permitted to see using a magnifying glass while wearing white fiber-free gloves (every line of crackle in the paint on a canvass from 1560). This is art released from the private vacuum of cultural elitism (so many museums actually embrace elitism as a principle and mission) and now instantly distributed to every corner of the world.

Stendhal, the French writer, went to Florence and was so overcome by the masterpieces that he had essentially a nervous breakdown. This has happened to many before and since and is a recognized syndrome. The symptoms disappear over time when the patient is removed from the art. This is an unprecedented look at art masterpieces. You could spend hours on line with a single work and only emerge days later from a collection like the Getty’s in need of room with simple white walls.

The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.

Source – Open Content Program

The question some would ask provocatively is this:

Would Vincent Van Gogh openly dedicate to the public a wonderfully detailed digital file of his painting of Irises?

Of course, he’s dead so we can’t ask; and, he’s been dead so long, he never could have been asked in the right context. For example, the idea that a “better” copy than the original could be made without impacting the original in any way is hard, still, to fathom and is a part of the active, boiling revolution instigated by digital media.

Radical moves in tech are commonplace. Radical moves in museum culture almost never happen. Museums typically are conservative in all things—a pun to their primary mission of conserving cultural materials. The process of conservatorship among the “great” museums with “great” collections is full of delicate dealings not just with the objects and their care but with artists, the museums’ very wealthy patrons, local and foreign governments and collectors. Offering institutional “protection” of their works, legacies, and ”names” in big buildings that themselves become landmarks, museums strive to be symbols of sobriety, permanence, tradition, calm and studied control.

The J. Paul Getty Museum’s board of directors has gone deviant and we could not be happier!

The J. Paul Getty Museum has initiated an Open Content Program to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible. A first sharing of 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection, including many masterworks, has just been made available and all are free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose.

Search Open Content Program here.

Writers: $techgnotic
Designers: $marioluevanos

For more articles like this, please visit #depthRADIUS
Add a Comment:
jojo22 Featured By Owner Edited Oct 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Amazing, thank you Getty, for sharing humanity's treasures so that they can live on in modern art. :D
IdunaHaya-Stock Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is awesome! Thank you very much for sharing this information. I'll think about the questions you ask at the end and answer them later :)
annagalaxy Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2014
aahh!ok...nice great wonderful and all that...
rodolgo Featured By Owner Apr 12, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
lluisagoberna Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
<font><font>Ho trobo genial, ja era hora!!</font></font>
graphicMADness Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Question 1: I saw a magnificent early work of Salvador Dali, in the Dali museum, in St Petersburg, FL. It was a simple still life of purple flowers. I have never seen it in a book, and there was no reproduction of any kind in the gift shop. A high resolution digital file would mean I could look at it any time I choose.

Question 2: I suppose it could lead to more fakes, or more likely the images would simply be printed on canvas.

Question 3: "A View of Toledo," by El Greco. I was in the 6th grade. My teacher was all about the arts and took us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically to see this painting which was on loan to the Met. I have also seen this painting in art history books. There is no comparison to the original which is totally awe inspiring. This was my AHA moment and probably my inspriration to express myself artistically.

Question 4: I think copyright is only valuable to artists who actually make money.
ZatmenieLuny Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014
It's a dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!
wendygoerl Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014   Traditional Artist
To answer the reader questions:
1) Probably a Rembrant or DaVince
2) Probably
3) No
4) I don't like the Copyright Act of 1978. Creating a work of art (whatever you medium) takes less effort than developing most patents, which can only be protected for--what, fourteen?--years, and trademarks have to be renewed every ten, but a few words scrawled out in twenty minutes can be protected for well over 100 years? If I can't benefit from it, I don't see why someone else (like the growing number of publishers who insist on buying "all rights") should be allowed to benefit, either. It's just a means of forcing "mediocre" (anything other than a runaway bestseller) works out of print in order to free up production capacity for the next golden goose. I say 50 years from creation is long enough.
Garret-Moore Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014
A stunning resource. The release is reasonable and highly appropriate. As an artist I applaud the careful archival of such works and to release them when they do no harm to the living artist or their families. Art need be in the public to enrichen and give beauty and wisdom to all people as the artist intended.

Art if truly art, is from deep in our souls and at least uncorrupted views of our world as interpreted by the artists and their unique and time relevant, culturally specific places. Irregardless of the monetary value of the original work, after a reasonable time I would want my own works imagery to be free to all. If at least it has any value to them.

Our history and sociocultural past is best viewed through unaligned historians. Artists to the greatest extent are the witnesses to history, and mostly abhor any limitations or ontological limits of their interpretations or unique views. So this is a better source of history than state sponsored historical record who's views and interpretations are subjective and politically aligned.

Most of all, as artists we want to create beauty that can change the minds of those locked in the sameness of the drone media. If we could survive having all we need, how many of us would continue to create art out of a sheer love and inherent need to do so as an artist. We don't do this to get rich. We do have to do something to survive, as the great artists always had to survive by working for others with their talents hopefully. The church, as Michelangelo, The government armies, Da Vinci, and so on allowed the artist a living so their own studios, overhead, supplies and finally artworks could be funded. Many times these artists were themselves holders of similar views and served the benefactors needs. But it is all highly valuable historic record in the least, and even more valuable as beauty, insight and vision.

Thanks to the thoughtful Getty people for truly valuing art for these and other reasons, and knowing it was for people of all class and creed, and not just a quantified investment to be miserly locked up for all time, unless money turns the key.

Bravo Getty Museum, and thanks Techgnotic for the heads-up!
Fundelstein Featured By Owner Apr 11, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This is wonderful! 

Let's see:

  1. If you could pick any artwork anywhere for which you would want to have a high-resolution digital file for open use what would it be?         I'd want The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali.
    1. Will the release of these incredibly detailed files lead to increased production of faithful copies that cannot be distinguished from the original?     Maybe or maybe not. I highly doubt it though. And in the grand scheme of things, does that matter? Unless someone wanted to steal it and switch it with a perfect replica... then that would be pretty bad.
    2. What single artwork in a museum has affected you deeply like Stendhal or perhaps just changed your life or became your life’s goal as an artist?     Honestly, I haven't found something like that yet.
    3. As a living artist you might object to having others use your work, but what about when you are dead? Current copyright laws would protect your work in some countries, like the U.S. and Germany, for 70 years after your death.  Is that reasonable?    I'd want my relatives to live off the profit for a little while, so yes. 70 years is reasonable to me.
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