Exploring art (through selfies) with Google Arts & Culture

January 17th, 2018

The Google Arts & Culture platform hosts millions of artifacts and pieces of art, ranging from prehistory to the contemporary, shared by museums across the world. But the prospect of exploring all that art can be daunting. To make it easier, we dreamt up a fun solution: connect people to art by way of a fundamental artistic pursuit, the search for the self … or, in this case, the selfie.

We created an experiment that matches your selfie with art from the collections of museums on Google Arts & Culture—and over the past few days, people have taken more than 30 million selfies. Even if your art look-alike is a surprise, we hope you discover something new in the process. (By the way, Google doesn’t use your selfie for anything else and only keeps it for the time it takes to search for matches.)

Exploring art (through selfies) with Google Arts & Culture
That’s me, Michelle, the product manager for this feature!

We’re so happy people are enjoying their selfie matches, but we’re even happier that people haven’t stopped with the selfie. They’ve jumped—face first—into the 6,000 exhibitions hosted on Google Arts & Culture, from more than 1,500 museum partners from 70 countries, to explore their artwork and learn about their stories.

Here are some of the most-visited works of art people explored while searching with their selfies:

Street Art painting by BToy from Street Art 13, painted in Paris, France
Simplon Pass by John Singer Sargentfrom Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, U.S.
By the Table by Henri Fantin-Latour from Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Peasants by David Alfaro Siqueiros from Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico
Female Figure by Santiago Rusiñol from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya – MNAC, Barcelona
Four Figures on a Step by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo from Kimbell Art Museum
Strolling along the Seashore by Joaquín Sorolla from Museo Sorolla
Self Portrait by Amrita Sher-Gil from National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi
Self-Portrait by Cecilia Beaux from National Academy Museum & School, New York
Street Art painting by BToy from Street Art 13, painted in Paris, France

And we hope you’ll keep exploring. There’s so much to see on Google Arts & Culture, from the annals of American Democracy and the rich history of Latino cultures in the U.S., to the wide world of Street Art and the intricacies of Japanese crafts and traditions. You can visit the rooftop of the Taj Mahal or the famous castles of France’s Loire Valley or even tour the United States’ National Parks, all from a mobile device. We also recommend checking out the stories behind what you wear—this collection lets you browse more than 30,000 pieces from 3,000 years fashion history: try searching for hats and sort them by color or sort shoes by time. So cool.

At Google Arts & Culture, our software engineers are always experimenting with new and creative ways to connect you with art and culture. That’s how this selfie feature came about, too. We know there’s great demand to improve and expand the selfie-matching feature to more locations, including outside the U.S., and we’ll share more news as soon as we have it. We’ll continue to partner with more museums to bring diverse cultures from every part of the world online (any museum can join!), so you can explore their stories and find even more portraits.

In the meantime, you can download the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS or Android and get face to face  with art!