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Coming Soon to NYC: The Googleheim Museum

[Source: SEO-AP] Due to budget cuts of the NEA and gross mismanagement by the Guggenheim Foundation board of directors, one of America’s top museums has been in danger of closing down in bankruptcy and selling off priceless artworks in order to repay debtors. However, Google [NYSE: GOOG] company has apparently made a unique sponsorship offer to the Solomon R. Guggenheim, and the deal is apparently set to initiate on June 1.

Secret image of Googleheim - Google internal documents
Source: Google internal documents outed earlier today on Natural Search Blog.

Information related to the deal was discovered by this reporter while browsing through 3D images of buildings created with Google Sketchup (while researching an article on Sketchup’s University Contest). Apparently, Google personnel had generated a new façade of the building in the application in order to use the images in a proposal to bail out the museum. Due to a temporary glitch, links to the confidential building diagrams showing a new exterior could be found for a short while in the application’s online data warehouse. These images showed a new logo reading “Googleheim�, apparently a cross between the well-known Google brand name and the Guggenheim name.

The proposed exterior showed the newly Google-ized logo broadly splashed across the museum, replacing the much smaller signature letters of the current museum name. Other information regarding the deal was leaked by a few unnamed sources within the company, and the deal was subsequently confirmed to by Google spokesperson, Erin Fors.

Googleheim Museum - Artists Rendition
Architectural rendition of the future new Googleheim Museum

The Bush Administration has steadily cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) while increasing war funding — a move that many felt was done specifically to repress the often loud voice of the liberal arts community. When Republicans took over the House in 1995, they tried to eliminate all funding for the NEA and cut its budget by 40 percent to $99.5 million in 1996-97. The Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2008 includes $128.4 million for the NEA. Both artists and museums have felt the brunt of the NEA budget cuts and recent, marginal increases provided by the government to deflect the criticism of stifling war criticism have not been sufficient to completely fix the suffering Guggenheim.

The Guggenheim Foundation has overstretched itself in recent years by opening satellite museums with extensive, expensively-built architecture in Las Vegas, Venice, Berlin, and Bilbao, each of which have failed to bring in the numbers of visitors projected to help offset the costs and pay for the construction loans.

Google is now sweeping in to save the day, so long as they’re able to get some brand name equity in the deal, and so that they can further their information retrieval goals.  Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” As part of the deal to take over the museum, they intend to use a unique laser scanner to convert all of the flat art into digital format. This laser process known as Multi-Wavelength High Saturation Scanning requires dozens of passes over each artwork, using different light wavelength laser beams in order to capture subtle color variations which can occur under various lighting conditions. This scanning process is highly controversial among curators and art preservationists because the process apparently damages paintings irreparably.

“We used multi-wave scanning on a 16th century illuminated manuscript,� says Dr. Timothy Potts, director of the world-famous Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. “The manuscript pages appeared burnt afterwards, and became so brittle they literally disintegrated. I wouldn’t use this type of scanning unless it was the last-ditch possibility for preserving the image of an artwork that is already in danger of decomposing.�

Google apparently disagrees. “Multi-wave scanning’s broad spectrum lasers provide the very best technology for capturing the essence of any given painting,� states an unnamed Google engineer. “We’ve been using this method for preserving the illustrations for particularly rare books as we scan in libraries. The resultant chroma is far better saturated than other methods.�

“We know that the future of art viewing is going to be a digital experience. Analog art, requiring you to travel to a location and view the art in person is going to become a thing of the past.�

“Look,� the engineer stated impatiently, “this is the best means there is for preserving the image of the artwork for future generations. Replicating many copies, all of which are digitally identical will insure that future generations have the same viewing experience as the people of today. NOT scanning an artwork using mult-wave is simply irresponsible!�

Some appliance dealers in Manhattan are now reporting a number of significant orders for the industry’s largest flatscreen monitors to be delivered to the Guggenheim by the end of the summer.

The scanning process is the smaller side of the controversy sparked by the museum takeover. After this reporter mentioned the specifics of the takeover to various interested parties around New York, it appears that the new name for the museum and its giant letters are poised to ignite a furor of anger from ethnic anti-defamation leagues and historical preservationists.

Adam Brenner of the Manhattan Cultural Anti-Defamation Society states, “They’re ruining the historical integrity of the building and the city. What exactly is wrong with keeping the old Jewish name? Solomon Guggenheim was a philanthropist and businessman. We should continue to honor him through the museum name.�

Fors politely responded to the concern, saying, “Google’s research indicates that many users already mispell the historical name of the museum compared with our highly-recognizable company name, so evolving it into the ‘Googleheim’ name will already improve the spelling of countless schoolchildren and will increase the name recognition of the institution while still preserving the roots of its legacy founder’s name. It’s actually a brandname mashup – another great innovation by an imaginative company.â€?

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have apparently long held admiration for the architect of the Guggenheim, Frank Lloyd Wright, and even ordered Google employees to create a custom Google logo commemorating the architect’s contributions and to display it on the date of his birth in 2005.

Google Frank Lloyd Write Logo

Google also has offices in Manhattan, and it’s known that their employees have been visiting the museum with some frequency.

Artists we interviewed for this story are still stunned at the news of the planned changes to the august institution.

“It’s not Google owning the place or renaming it after themselves that unnerves me the most…”, says up-and-coming abstract-compound artist Margaret Withers of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, considered by most to be the new Art Capital of the World.

“After all, it just demonstrates the natural progression of the museum
institution in a post-modernist world. The renaming could transcend the
commercial aspects of this buyout to the point of becoming Pop Art or
maybe even a sort of deadpan Kitsch. However, I am concerned about this
bizarre scanning process as my intent for my paintings is for them to
live on for posterity.”

Margaret Withers in her studio
Artist Margaret Withers in her studio. File photo, 2005

Some of Withers’ paintings which are owned by a major private collector are currently being considered as a possible bequest to the Guggenheim and Withers worries about their fate in light of the scanning process. “I’ve asked my patron to hold off on willing them to the museum until I can tell which way the art world is likely to go. I’m concerned about the future of American art when the art world moves toward a desire for destruction and forms an unholy liaison with the vast corporate machinery, it wouldn’t surprise me if Wal-Mart one day becomes the largest and only art dealer.”

Withers looks uncertainly out the window of her studio, and nervously nibbles the handle of a paintbrush.

Other artists are less philosophical about the concept. Many in the art world consider viewing a piece of art to be an experiential act which cannot be adequately duplicated by viewing any sort of reproduction, no matter how good the quality of the scanned image. At least one critic likened the scanning process to the scientific destruction of a painting that happened when wealthy author Patricia Cornwell destroyed a painting by Walter Sickert in order to test for DNA evidence in support of her pet theory that the artist was the infamous Jack the Ripper of old London.

One thing is certain. The changes introduced by Google into the conservative and slow-to-change art world are not likely to be met with ready acceptance and adoption over night. Dozens of artists have immediately begun adding stipulations into agreements for selling their art, specifying that the paintings can never be sold to Google or to the Guggenheim, or even loaned to them. And, at least one group of collectors is already coming together to lob a class-action lawsuit at Google to halt what they call the “cultural burning at the stake in an act of supreme hubris� of works which they donated to the institution.

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