Selfies with Art/Selfies and Art

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Katy Perry at the Broad in Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Room"
Like it or not, Social Media has affected how we look at art.  Who doesn't have a photo of a piece of art or better yet, one WITH a piece of art? Living in Los Angeles, it was almost impossible not to see my instagram feed overrun with photos of people in the new Broad museum in Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Room" installation.  This installation was nothing short of breathtaking, but the fact that it was made up of thousands of colored lights and mirrors made it perfect for selfies.  And selfies there were.  Millions.  Which really made me think about how selfie "culture" and social media platforms like Instagram where everyone wants to be seen as having a fabulous and cultured life are affecting the art world.

Another huge selfie op was the "Rain Room" at LACMA.  This installation which originated at MOMA in New York was created by the London "art collective" Random International (which sounds kind of like something from the movie Step Brothers).  Basically, it is what it sounds like: a big room with rain in it. Only you don't get wet. Which is pretty cool I guess, but mostly I think people wanted to take pictures of it/in it.  And they did.  Everyone I know probably has a picture of that room.

This argument can go two was: "It's great that these attractions are bringing people to the museums and they're probably taking a peak around at the other art on display" vs. "This is not the way that this art was intended to be viewed and people are less concerned with the actual art than they are with how their pictures turn out and how many likes they get."  I tend to side with the latter.  It would be really interesting to see if these attractions boosted numbers in the OTHER areas of the museum, rather than just seeing if it boosted attendance to the museum as a whole.  Sure, a ton of people buy tickets to these attractions (most of them require additional tickets in addition to museum entry) but do they really stick around and look at the other exhibitions while they're there?

Selfies can also be damaging.  Recently we've seen art being broken and ruined from people trying to take selfies or videos.  A man in Portugal busted a statue of 16th-Century King Dom Sebastio by trying to get closer to take a selfie.  Two little boys in China roughhoused next to glass sculptures in the Shanghai Museum of Glass and nearly knock one over....while their parents filmed it.  So no, these people probably didn't read the didactics about the artwork or leave the museums with a new appreciation for the art world.

Sure, social media is helpful tool for collectors, dealers, and artists alike.  It's a great way to get your artwork out there or to let people know what projects you're up to.  But I think it's important to remember that artwork was not meant to be viewed behind your head, or in a square photo on an IPhone app. 

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