After shuttered museums across the globe asked homebound visitors to recreate famous artworks using household items, yielding hilarious results and nearly breaking the internet, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves: does the world really need yet another viral art challenge? The answer is yes, always yes.
Thankfully, the J. Paul Getty Trust and Google have answered our calls for more deliriously addictive art historical pastimes. The Los Angeles institution and the digital behemoth have teamed up to launch Art Transfer, a tool that lets users apply the idiosyncratic styles of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Kahlo, Kusama, and many more to any image, transforming even the most mundane selfies collecting dust in your camera roll into veritable masterpieces.
Using the new feature on the Google Arts & Culture app, you can take or upload a photo and choose from filters based on dozens of works, from an abstraction by Wassily Kandinsky and a 2,500-year-old Greek amphora vase, to Katsushika Hokusai’s ubiquitous “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (ca. 1831).
The feature allows you to overlay the artwork onto the entire image or a specific part of it that you can define using a brush-like tool (so, for example, you can try out Monet’s water lilies on your bedroom wall, or give yourself a Keith Haring-inspired outfit, while leaving the rest of the photograph in its original form.)
“Art is a great unifier, a reminder we are all in this together,” said Lisa Lapin, vice president of communications at the Getty. “When Google raised the concept of Art Transfer, we loved the idea of leveraging Google’s artificial intelligence technology to give people even more tools to play with. They can have fun exploring works from Getty collections, learning the different approaches and styles of major artists, and then get hands-on in applying those approaches to their own personal creations.”
The app is extremely easy to use and seemingly without glitches; that said, not all the artwork options produce equally faithful results. While Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” filter convincingly renders the world into the painter’s iconic romantic swirls, in this writer’s trial it was hard to distinguish Frida Kahlo’s signature style in an image edited with the Mexican surrealist’s “Self-Portrait” filter. Some works turn your photo into an abstract blob or a tiled spectacle reminiscent of a mirrored modernist funhouse, but for those who think figurative painting is over, that could be a bonus.
Minor fidelity issues aside, Art Transfer is a satisfying tool for procrastination and another reminder that art history is cool. Art meme-ing, which has seen an upsurge in recent months, seems to have joined the ranks of top quarantine activities — it may be right up there with baking sourdough. During the current crisis, when stay-at-home orders have forced us to become closely acquainted with our living rooms, the invitation to transfigure ordinary spaces and objects with art is a particularly attractive one.
Or at the very least, you’ll make your Zoom background jealous.