Social media is known for a lot of things, but "fine art" isn't typically one of them. Nonetheless, you might have seen a lot of fancy paintings on your Twitter or Instagram feeds lately -- paired with selfies of people you follow.
The artsy doppelgangers are a new feature in Google's Arts & Culture app. The app itself has been available on iOS and Android devices for at least a year and a half, but its focus on museums and exhibits (both local and international) hasn't exactly propelled it to the top of the download charts in the past. Now, by asking "Is your portrait in a museum?" it has become a viral pop culture hit.
The concept is simple: You take a picture of yourself, Google's app scans your face, then your selfie is compared to works of art from around the world. That's how we know that Silicon Valley actor Kumail Nanjiani is a dead ringer for this portrait by Mohammed Al Mazrouie.
If you're in Texas or Illinois (or various countries outside the U.S.), though, you might be very confused after downloading the app. For us, this fancy new selfie toy is nowhere to be found.
You're not crazy. Google's App Store listing for Arts & Culture is careful to say that the new feature is "available in some parts of the US only. Stay tuned as we try to improve and expand."
Why are we left out? Google hasn't been specific. The most educated guess comes from The Houston Chronicle, which points to "biometric privacy" laws on the books in Texas and Illinois. As the Chronicle puts it, we have rules "against using such technology to identify people without their informed consent."
Which is a bit weird, since you're consenting to take your selfie with the explicit purpose of matching your face with a work of art, but we can appreciate the spirit of trying to protect users from nefarious technology.
The Chronicle also has a story about how to get around the state-wide block, but the solutions won't help everybody. Turning off Location Services on our phone didn't work for us, and logging in through a VPN will be a hassle for many.
In any case, the lack of high culture selfie fun is a big bummer for anybody in Dallas who wants to be able to tell their friends, "See? I look exactly like the 'Girl with a Pearl Earring!' Even Google says so!"
And if you're like us, you want to see what works of art your favorite local celebrities resemble. So with the help of David Jordan in our Washington, D.C. bureau, we took five local faves and found out what museums they're hanging in.