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Google aims to make street art last forever

The painting skills of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and dozens more are now preserved in the Google Street Art Project.

A mural in East London by Malarky, Mr. Penfold, and other street artists. Google/Global Street Art Foundation

One of the beautiful things about street art is that it's on display for anyone to see, rather than being holed up in a museum. This also leaves it open to harsh weather, graffiti police, and territorial taggers.

Google is looking to preserve popular street art seen around the world and continue the legacy of leaving that art open to the public. The company announced Tuesday that it's adding a street art component to its Google Art Project. The feature, dubbed the Street Art Project, was created through the Google Cultural Institute, which partners with museums, cultural institutions, and archives to "host the world's cultural treasures online."

Working with "street art experts" Google launched the project today with more than 5,000 images and roughly 100 special exhibitions on artists, places, and themes. Users can sift through the site and check out murals in South America, a special project by the artist Futura in the Palais de Tokyo, street art stickers, and much more.

"Some of this work was created as a means of expression and activism, like the Chilean open-sky museums of La Pincoya and San Miguel, which were born as community projects to transform poverty-stricken neighborhoods, or to make a political statement like in London and Atlanta," Google Cultural Institute program manager Lucy Schwartz wrote in a blog post.

"It's not just about spraypaint either," Schwartz continued. "Other exhibits demonstrate the signature style of the artist, like JR's large-scale and evocative photo-portraits, Roa's animals, Vhils' etching or Os Gemeos surrealism."

With the project, Google also added Street View captures that let users explore painting-covered buildings that have either been closed to the public or destroyed, such as the legendary Paris 13 tower and New York's famed 5Pointz.

"In a series of fascinating exhibitions by our partners, you can also learn about origins of the street art movement or see how Street Art is being used in Poland to revitalize its cities," Schwartz wrote. "Compare the global nature of the Street Art produced in Mexico, which has a long and vibrant history of muralism, to the scene in the Philippines, which is just developing."