Art World ‘It Took Us by Surprise’: Even Google Was Shocked by the Success of Its Megaviral Face-Matching Art App

The search behemoth’s app was all the rage on social media this weekend.

Brian Boucher, January 16, 2018

Jake Tapper was matched with a portrait of Ronald Reagan by Google’s face-matching art app. Courtesy of Jake Tapper via Twitter.

Googling yourself took on a whole new meaning this weekend. That’s because a Google app that matches your face with artworks from museums around the globe not only rocketed to the top of your social feed, but also became the number one free app on the iOS app store, according to the company.

“It took us by surprise,” said Patrick Lenihan, a spokesman for Google. “I’m the PR person and I didn’t even pitch anybody.” Google’s Arts and Culture arm added the new selfie feature to its app a month ago, but it wasn’t until the last several days that it took hold. Lenihan didn’t have figures for the “tons and tons” of traffic the app has suddenly seen.

Patient Zero for the viral spike hasn’t been identified, though Lenihan said that recent press coverage from the likes of Gizmodo and Buzzfeed helped launch the app into the stratosphere. The sleuths at Know Your Meme point out that early adopters included celebrities like Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz. And a handful of celebrities—from actors Kumail Nanjiani and Kristen Bell to journalists Jake Tapper and Ryan Seacrest—posted their decidedly mixed results to social media.

More text and images reported by Brian Boucher

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