Google Arts & Culture and Pompidou Center unveil Kandinsky’s work

But what if you could use other senses to draw parallels between colors and sounds? This was the creative endeavor Wassily Kandinsky sought in some of his works. Thanks to his gift of synesthesia, a multi-sensory perception ability, he was able to examine the relationship between sounds, colors and shapes and translate music for paintings.

Center Pompidou and Google Arts & Culture came together to honor the artist who is considered the initiator of the abstract art movement. “Soa a Kandinsky” brings together the most emblematic works of art, reveals some of the rare personal archives – some never seen before – and offers a machine learning experience that allows everyone to have a different, innovative and engaging contact with the artist.

While many people can recognize some of Kandinsky’s most famous works of art, the man behind the works is less known. We have digitized 3,700 works of art, personal photos with Google Arts & Culture technology – childhood memories, vacation photos with Paul Klee or his artistic studio in which he painted in Neuilly – a contribution from the Kandinsky collection in the care of Nina Kandinsky and so on enables anyone to enter the universe of the artist’s life and work.

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But in order to really understand Kandinsky’s legacy and unlock one of the secrets that define his artistic style, it is important to understand the distinct creative process present in his works: synesthesia. This neurological condition, shared by other artists such as Rimbaud, Billie Eilish, and Pharrell Williams, enabled him to associate colors with specific sounds and moods. When Kandinsky was painting, two senses worked systematically together: hearing and seeing. Colors and shapes are translated into sounds, harmonies and vibrations made up of lines and patterns.

To show off this creative process and Kandinsky’s “sound”, we partnered with experimental music artist Antoine Bertin eNSDOS to create what we called “Play a Kandinsky”, an interactive experience that for the first time enables everyone, not only to see, but also to feel what Kandinsky could have heard while painting. Together we analyzed Kandinsky’s texts highlighting his synaesthetic experience and applied machine learning technology to create a tool that simulates what Kandinsky might have heard when he painted his masterpiece “Yellow Red Blue” in 1925.

With the ability to zoom in and click on different areas of the painting, the user is prompted to touch the picture and explore the sounds and emotions associated with colors and shapes. It’s even possible to create your own mix and share the result of the Kandinsky-inspired creation.

And thanks to the Pocket Gallery, it is possible to walk through a bespoke exhibition through augmented reality and see some of Kandinsky’s most famous works of art up close. While this will never replace the unique experience of seeing these works in the museum, it nonetheless allows for real immersion in each of his works, certainly virtual, but just as intimate with this artist who could hear the colors.