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Your ‘Animal Crossing’ obsession is about to get worse. Blame the Getty Art Generator

You can now add art from the Getty Museum's online collection to "Animal Crossing."
(Sarah Waldorf)

Planet Earth got you down? Spending most of your quarantine time building an elaborate virtual island world in “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”? Take comfort, you are far from alone. But you knew that already.

Now know this: You can make your dream world twice as beautiful by jazzing it up with masterpieces from the Getty Museum’s online collection via the Getty’s newly launched Animal Crossing Art Generator. Choose from more than 79,000 pieces of art, including work by Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt and Klimt, and place them inside your carefully crafted universe as wallpaper, clothing, canvases and whatever else needs immediate beautification.

“We keep telling ourselves that what we can do best at this time is bring some joy into peoples lives and take our art to where they are,” said David Newbury, an enterprise software architect with the Getty whose team spearheaded the project. “And this seemed like a great way to do that with technology.”

The latest incarnation of “Animal Crossing” has taken the socially isolated set by storm. The Nintendo Switch game came out March 20, as the coronavirus pandemic was shutting down much of the world. It is a peaceful respite that allows players to interact in an idyllic island all their own, molded by current events but not a slave to them.

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Newbury said that half of his software development team plays “Animal Crossing,” and that two toddlers ago he lost about three months of his life to the game. So when one of his engineers approached him, asking if the Getty’s collection could be put in the game, his answer was an immediate, “Yes, we have to do that right away.”

That was a week ago. Newbury gives thanks and credit to engineers with “Animal Crossing” who did the deep technical work to figure out how to get images and patterns into the game. They then published open-source code for others to use.

“One of the things that I’ve been working on for years is how we can quickly use our collections to do things digitally,” Newbury said, explaining why this project was an ideal test.

A bonus is something called the IIIF manifest converter, which allows players to nab and upload open-access artworks from other museums as well. This tool (full name International Image Interoperability Framework) builds on online image-sharing technology the Getty and other institutions have been working on for nearly eight years, Newbury said.

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Here’s a technical primer on how Animal Crossing Art Generator works.

L.A. artist replaces the Statue of Liberty and Mr. Rushmore with migrant farmworkers, enslaved domestic workers and interned Japanese Americans.


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