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Visual Culture

How to Create Memoji of Your Favorite Artists Using iOS 12

Artsy Editors
Sep 12, 2018 9:02PM

Apple Memoji avatars of Salvador Dalí, Takashi Murakami, and Yayoi Kusama.

With the imminent release of Memoji, customizable and animated human avatars for iOS 12 users, on September 17th, we began wondering how famous artists past and present would look as small digital effigies. If you have an iPhone or iPad that currently runs iOS 11, you’ll be able to download the iOS 12 update, detailed at Apple’s iPhone event today, to create your own Memoji. With a range of options for skin tones, facial features, hair colors and styles, and accessories, you can make your digital self look like you—or not like you at all.

Like its predecessor Animoji, Memoji will use your device’s front-facing camera to mimic your movements and expressions and deliver your recorded reactions—including voice messages—through the Messages app. You can store multiple Memoji, so you can create some inspired by your favorite artists and use them when you need to channel your inner Georgia O’Keeffe or Takashi Murakami.

Though Memoji are certainly entertaining, while creating the artist examples listed below, we did find that the options are somewhat limited if you want to design a true likeness. We were unable to pull off the looks of some artists with notable features (Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows, for instance), and, due to the very cute, round nature of the Memoji design, features like angular noses, heavy brows, and thin faces are a no-go; age is tricky, too, only defined by light shadows and a longer face.

Hairstyles also proved difficult to get right, especially for black artists. It was somewhat expected that we wouldn’t be able to emulate Jean-Michel Basquiat’s distinctive sectioned-off dreads, but when referencing artist headshots, we couldn’t find tight ringlets for painter Kara Walker, for example, or a cropped, feminine cut for photographer Carrie Mae Weems. Though we had issues with hairstyles of white artists, too (the hairstyle we tried for Andy Warhol more closely resembled politician Jill Stein), we were disappointed that we couldn’t capture the likenesses of a number of famous black female artists.

Out of the artists we attempted, here are the most successful, as well as step-by-step slideshows on how to make them.


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The prolific contemporary Japanese artist, known for his Pop-infused, colorful artworks, sports signature round eyeglasses and distinctive facial hair, both of which are available as Memoji features.


Powerhouse contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who has awed generations with her “Infinity Room” series, can join your Memoji roster with her characteristic bright-red chin-length bob and bangs.


The Conceptual artist (and wife to the late John Lennon) is one of the easiest to immediately recognize. She can be Memoji-fied by adding a black top hat and glasses to her look.


Celebrate the contemporary artist-dancer known for his “Soundsuits”—wearable fabric constructions at the intersection of fashion, performance art, and sculpture—by choosing a white beard and contrasting dark eyebrows.


Who would have thought there’d be a Leonardo da Vinci hat? When combined with the artist’s long facial hair (if you’re sensing a theme, yes, men with facial hair probably have it the easiest in Memoji form), the Renaissance man can channel your 2018 attitude.


The avatar form of the famed Spanish artist may not quite have the mustache length (and, admittedly, he may look a bit like a contemporary hipster version of himself), but if you are having a surreal conversation, you may need to call upon his help.


The collage and installation artist reached a milestone this year as the most expensive living artist of color, so utilize a Bradford Memoji when you need serious motivation.


The avatar form of this modern American painter doesn’t quite capture her features, which inspired endless photos by Alfred Stieglitz, but we were able to evoke what she looked like later in life through her simple, high bun.


If you want to pay homage to one of the quintessential New York street artists of the 1980s, you can add a Memoji of Keith Haring to your fanboy or fangirl collection. Top off the late artist’s image with his thin red frames.

Artsy Editors

Special thanks to Artsy engineer Orta Therox.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019