Google's art project puts masterpieces a click away

Columbia Museo Botero's "Monalisa" by Fernando Botero, as seen on the Google Art Project.
Google Art Project

(CBS News) The Google Art Project started small just over a year ago. It's since become a huge online museum featuring the best of other museums around the world. Without leaving the house, you can view more than 30,000 works of art from over 150 collections in 40 countries.

The man behind the project, Amit Sood, began the endeavor as a side project. Tuesday on "CBS This Morning" he said it was all about opening up access to these great works of art. Not only do people have access to the artwork, they also get a glimpse inside the museums for a sense of the space where the works are displayed.

Visitors to the Google Art Project website can experience an artwork - in the case of paintings - down to its tiniest brushstrokes. Sood said the zoom function helps visitors experience a work like they may never have had a chance to. He said, "You can't really do (that in a museum) when you're standing in front of an artwork (and) you're being shoved aside."

Sood said the idea came from a conversation about museums. "We were trying to do small projects with museums and we thought, wouldn't it be awesome if you could just bring all the museums together so you don't have to go one website for this, one website for this. We started talking to the Tate (in the U.K.), we started talking to the MoMa (in New York) and they thought it was crazy initially. And then they kind of warmed, they warmed to the idea."

Replacing the museum isn't the idea, but rather, giving people access to the museums that they can't visit, Sood said. The Google Art Project is a non-profit venture.

However, some museums still haven't joined the Google Art Project, including the Louvre in Paris which houses Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

But that doesn't mean you'll never get to zoom into that famous smile - Sood said many museums have joined the project as it has picked up steam.

"This project is not resourced very heavily," he said. "...We approach them, we say, 'We have this idea,' they say, 'Let's see how it develops and we'll come back to you.' But you can see the 'Monalisa' by Botero, which is on the site."