My timeline started blowing up with bizarre side-by-side photos of selfies and museum portraits. I tracked it down as a feature of the new Google Arts & Culture app (iOS and Android) which is free, fun, and possibly has some educational value in it too.
Scroll down from the homepage to the section that asks “Is your portrait in a museum?” then just follow the prompts to take a selfie and see the matches.
So, how accurate is it?
Well of course we all want to discover our most flattering fine art dopplegangers — perhaps a Degas dancer or a Botticelli goddess. (I’m not picky.) And yet, no matter what kind of photo I took in whatever light, I was a solid 45-52% match for Ferdinand Boi’s Portrait of a Naval Officer.
All things being equal it’s more fun to get silly with the app, especially considering Google reports they don’t save the images. My kids had a good time seeing how we lined up especially when we all made faces.
Besides being a fun time-waster ready-made for social media likes and lols, it could be an easy way to get kids excited to learn about new artists and explore more about the museums that host their “matches” since that info is available in one-click through the app. It’s got plenty of educational features as well, like virtual tours through museums worldwide, and articles about all kind of art-related topics.
But really, it’s the selfie match that sucks us in.
It’s important to point out however, that there are a lot of complaints about what appears to be an inadequate number of portraits of people of color to choose from. Blair Imani tweeted about a lack of options in the results matching her complexion. This may be a failure of a limited art catalog, or the same AI issue that makes Google Arts & Culture fairly certain I resemble the 17th century Vice-Admiral Aert van Nes. Moustache and all.