Street art, by its nature, is temporary. Always at risk of being painted over, knocked down or destroyed, street art is a product of its time and place, forever fleeting and ephemeral. That is until now.
The mission of The Google Art Project’s Street Art Collection is to preserve and democratize this art form through digitization and new technologies. While the collection launched in June 2014, Google has since partnered with 55 more street art organizations and collectives in 34 countries for today’s debut of thousands of additional images, doubling the total and bringing the collection to over 10,000 photographs. The new images expand the opportunities to observe and interact with street art around the world. Using the map on the site, you can navigate from Los Angeles to Dubai with relative ease, jumping from the politically-motivated work of French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed in Palestine to the brightly colored murals of Remed and Okuda in Miami.
The Street Art Collection is part of the larger Google Cultural Institute, which was launched in 2011 to bring the “world’s cultural treasures” online in order to make museum artifacts, documents and artwork accessible to a global audience.
The images help preserve an art form that is often temporary. Take one recent American example: In November 2013, the iconic mural space 5Pointz in Queens was whitewashed overnight. Though not unexpected—new development plans had been in place for months—the change was abrupt. Many were angry and others disappointed they had never made the pilgrimage to see these works of art. Today, the murals of 5Pointz are beautifully preserved in the collection (they were part of the 2014 debut), as are new images from the rapidly changing street art scene in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
Below are images from seven of the most street-art-rich places on the planet, all available in high-res in Google’s Street Art Collection:
Sahara Desert, Tunisia
Over the last year, Tunisia has become a hub of street art, with artists from across the world descending upon the small North African nation. Villages have become open-air galleries, bringing in tourists and much-needed dollars. Known as “the gateway to the Sahara,” the southern town of Douz has become an especially vibrant location.
The Filipino Street Art Project is a documentary effort and community organization in the fast-growing province of Cavite and the capital region of Metro Manila, documenting the evolution of street art in that region. The Philippines and Malaysia are havens for funky wall murals, with Beach Street in the George Town section of Penang, Malaysia particularly famous for them.
In a city that classifies graffiti as a “violation” instead of a crime, street art has become a way for civil disobedience to be expressed. In fact, a 2011 police shooting of a Bogotá artist caused such an outcry that the city government further relaxed the laws around street art, and offered city walls as a canvas for artists to express their dissatisfaction, anger and rage at the state of affairs in their city.
The Corno Project was established in 2010 to commission artists to transform neglected buildings in Portugal’s capital into urban masterpieces. The Galeria de Arte Urbana (Urban Art Gallery) was set up around the same time to provide another place for Lisbon’s finest to turn a crumbling structure into a lively space.
Los Angeles, California
In the early 1980s, the Los Angeles Arts District was often considered the “mural capital of the world,” and said to have murals per capita than anywhere else. While the city would eventually lose this distinction after its city council banned large outdoor artworks more than a decade ago, it’s in the process of trying to get it back. Murals are being commissioned and painted across the district—located in an industrial section of downtown L.A.—nearly every day. Displaying famed L.A. flair, the artwork here is unlike anywhere else in the world.
The Urban Forms Gallery project was started in 2009 with the support of the city and the mayor of Lodz. Attracting local and internationally-renowned artists, the third-largest city in Poland has been transformed into one that discusses its political, ethical and moral questions through public art.