Google Arts and Culture: Celebrity Edition

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The Google Arts & Culture app has recently gone viral dominating the most downloaded app charts on iOS and Android. The most intriguing part about the app is the facial recognition feature that matches your selfie with your art doppelganger.


The few negative reviews seem to come from those who can’t access this selfie search feature on the app. In fact, the feature is only available in the US at the moment. How the deprived must be burning with envy as they watch celebrities and friends posting their art history doppelgangers on social media.



Celebrities from Kristen Bell and Kate Hudson to Ryan Secrest have been posting their matches on this app. But what about the celebrities who haven’t used the app? Let’s see who they might match with.

  1. Hoping to find Scarlett match with the Girl with a Pearl Earring, she was the first on the list. But alas, John Singer Sargent’s reclining lady from Simplon Pass: Reading appeared as a better match. Scarlett matched with Sargent’s niece, Rose-Marie who was a favorite model of Sargent’s featured in this watercolor. The reason she didn’t match with Vermeer’s painting could be because it’s housed at the Mauritshuis which isn’t in the Google Arts & Culture database yet.

Scarlett Johansson & Simplon Pass: Reading by John Singer Sargent at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

  1. Keanu Reeves of course matched with a 17th century portrait by Anthony van Dyck. Rumor has it Keanu Reeves is immortal and once went by the name of Paul Mounet. Did Google just reveal Keanu Reeves’ 17th century identity?

Keanu Reeves and Portrait of Paul de Vos by Anthony van Dyck at Rijksmuseum.

  1. Cardi B matched with this beauty featured on the Tolerance mural by Alaniz at the Street Art Museum of Amsterdam. The Museum features site-specific street art throughout the city of Amsterdam. First established as Tales of the Nine, a project to highlight nine artworks to be displayed at nine regions of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, the museum began as the city called for the recognition of other street art in the area.

Cardi B and Tolerance by Alaniz at Street Art Museum of Amsterdam

  1. Queen of selfies, Kim Kardashian matched with Dayang Makiling by Abe Orobia. According to Philippine mythology, Dayang Makiling is one of two goddesses who lived on Mount Makiling. No relation to Kim Kardashian, but the myth bears small resemblances to the Polynesian myth of Te Fiti, who recently made a cameo in Disney’s Moana.

Kim Kardashian and Dayang Makiling by Abe Orobia at the Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development

  1. Albert Edward Sterner’s Lady Kitty won the Meryl Streep contest. Sterner’s Lady Kitty features the heroine of The Marriage of William Ashe by Mary Augusta Ward.

Meryl Streep and Lady Kitty by Albert Edward Sterner at Dumbarton Oaks Museum

  1. Peggy Guggenheim, one of the most famous 20th century patrons of art actually matched with Benjamin Franklin. Sometimes things take a strange turn on the app and the selfie match feature might give an awkward result you were not looking for.

Peggy Guggenheim and Benjamin Franklin by Johan Georg Lorenz Rugendas I at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

  1. Adding to the bizarre match up from the Google Arts and Culture is Idris Elba with Ruben’s Four Studies of a Head of a Moor. It’s not so bizarre until Steve Harvey is also matched with the same painting. This limited pool of options for people of color using the selfie match feature is something we have all been noticing. It appears that there are not very many options for people of color on the Google Arts & Culture. Many articles have popped up citing a diversity issue with the app. Google has made an effort to diversify the museums in its collection, which initially mostly included museums in the US and Europe. Now, it includes about 15,000 institutions from around the world. However, it appears that the majority of the collections are still American and European.

Idris Elba and Four Studies of a Head of a Moor by Peter Paul Rubens at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium


Steve Harvey and Four Studies of a Head of a Moor by Peter Paul Rubens at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Google Arts and Culture also reflects the limited collection practices of the museums today. According to a study by the Mellon Foundation, only 16% of management positions are occupied by people of color in American museums. Another study by the American Alliance of Museums conducted in 2017 reveals that although Museum boards believe diversity to be important, almost half of the American museum boards are all white and have not prioritized initiatives to diversify their boards. We have yet to see how long the popularity of the app's selfie feature will last, but this popularity has reminded us of some of the major issues in the art world.



  1. BoardSource. “Summary of Findings.” Museum Board Leadership 2017: A National Report (Washington, D.C.: BoardSource, 2017).
  2. Goggin, Benjamin. “Is Google’s Arts and Culture App Racist?” Digg. January 16, 2018.
  3. “Lady Kitty.” Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Accessed: January 20, 2017.
  4. Las Casas, Dianne de. Tales from the 7,000 Isles: Filipino Folk Stories: Filipino Folk Stories. (Santa Barbara, CA: World Folklore Series, 2011) makiling&source...
  5. Shu, Catherine, “Why inclusion in the Google Arts and Culture selfie feature matters,” Tech Crunch, January 22, 2018.
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