POV: You want to get in on the Wordle craze but you just hate letters. Visual learners and those hoping to put their art history degree to some kind of use, rejoice! A new game, Artle, launched by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC, invites art lovers to guess the artist in four attempts using visual prompts from their oeuvre.
Like Wordle, Artle offers you one chance a day to prove how smart you are, and then gloat to your social media followers via the same sort of blind-share format that shows results without spoilers. That’s more or less where the similarities end. Unlike Wordle, guessing in Artle is not progressive, so if you typed in “Edvard Munch,” you won’t get partial credit toward “Édouard Manet.” Guesses cue prompts from a drop-down menu, so it also inhibits the tendency to guess something that isn’t part of the NGA canon — but with more than 155,000 artworks in the NGA’s collection, by some 15,000 different artists, that’s not a hugely limiting factor (though the same biases displayed by most institutions still apply.)
In fact, Artle is a lot harder than Wordle, since there are roughly 9,000 five-letter words in the English language for the daily draw versus 15,000 possible artists. So while it’s a great way to show off how much you know about art, it’s also a resource to learn about art that you don’t already know. I learned about the fascinating and sometimes disturbing oeuvre of Odilon Redon, a French artist who produced odd, Surrealist works around the turn of the 19th century. Not only does failing out reveal the artist of the day and link to their work in the NGA database, but each of the four image prompts are cited, so you can follow them up to learn more.
There might be a limited number of people who can flaunt their art pedigree, but an infinite number who could benefit from using Artle as a portal into the NGA’s vast and easily searchable online holdings. And of course, all curators and docents should plan to include their Artle stats on future résumés. Happy guessing!