The Paris home of the new Google Cultural Institute

The superb ‘hotel particulier’ in the 9th arrondissement of Paris looked real enough even though people were not quite aware of what was happening. Even though the company name didn’t appear on the tall, stone building, there was a street sign near the entrance that was suggesting that ‘I’m feeling Lucky’ was an immediate giveaway.

After knocking on the door for quite some time, a man opened the door and when I inquired about the existence of the new Google Cultural Institute, I was informed that it would not open until an hour later. The Google Cultural Institute took on a physical form with the inauguration, taking place in the building housing Google’s headquarters in Paris.

France is a country that has seen American technology as more of a cultural predator; therefore if Google was ‘feeling lucky, then it was overly optimistic. Aurélie Filippetti, the cultural minister cancelled at the last minute after promising that he would inaugurate the institute. With this cancellation, no kind of computer technology can change that.

Google says that the institute will be open to artists, students, curators and any other figures of the cultural world. It would also be a centre for conferences, showroom for technology, and a space for the contemporary art exhibitions. Google says that the institute will be like an extension of the Google Art Project.

The project that began with only 17 museums and galleries all over the world including MoMA in New York and the Tate in London has now about 300 collaborating art institutions and has high-definition images of over 53,000 works of art. Among the first to join the project in France were Musée d’Orsay and Versailles.

French Ministers have however, expressed their concerns about Google’s tax breaks, and its inability to address various pirate internet sites, inability to protect personal details of internet users, copyright and what the ministers see as unfair competition with the French technological sites. Fillippetti not making it for the inauguration surprised the director general of Google France Nick Leeder. However, the presence of the junior minister for innovation and digital technology, Fleur Pellerin made the inauguration much better.