Are Selfies Ruining Museum Visits For Everyone?
You’re waiting outside the Museum of Modern Art in a line that wraps around the street’s corner. The hype surrounding the exhibit is unreal–it has a starred New York Times review and will be closing next week. You’ve heard the gallery space’s neon lighting makes your skin shimmer more bountifully than Edward Cullen’s in the daylight; you know this to be true because you’ve seen your friends’ posts on Instagram, testifying to the gallery’s beauty.
Out of nowhere, it starts pouring. MoMa’s security informs you it will be roughly three hours until you will be admitted. You throw a temper tantrum and think you might have a panic attack. You hop back on your train home, drenched and without your own selfies inside the exhibit. Now no one will think you’re a cultured AF individual.
This unfortunate series of events has happened to pretty much everyone who has ever hoped to catch a glimpse of an exhibit featuring work by any prized artist. It’s sadly a typical problem for those seeking out work by Yayoi Kusama, the massively famous artist known for her installation work. Kusama was recently prompted with the thought of placing a time limit and selfie ban on guests who will peruse through her upcoming retrospective, “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” opening at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden next year, in order to optimize its amount of visitors and outreach.
With Kusama’s work–wild with colorful lines, abstract shapes, and dramatic stimulants that seem to derive from dream states– it would be cruel to ask individuals to abstain from whipping out their phones, as her exhibits have been coined as “Instagram ready” by default. But being beautiful comes at a price; Kusama has had fans wait 5 hours to enter her exhibit spaces.
Lavanya Ramanathan of The Washington Post recently wrote an article supporting a ban on selfies and time constraints at Kusama’s upcoming retrospective, outrightly stating, “If you take a selfie at this Hirshhorn show, you’re part of the problem.”
Several highbrow museums have already moved forward with implementing their own camera usage policies to insure that every passing spectator will enjoy their experience, free of annoying flashes and duck faces. In 2015, the Metropolitan Museum of Art banned the use of selfie sticks because of how they infringed upon the landmark’s visitors. More recently, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam prohibited all cellular activity within its massive galleries, and actually encouraged patrons to bring a sketchbook and pencil with them if they desired to have an image as memorabilia.
To visit a museum in our day and age is oftentimes thought of as a passive and superficial experience. Visitors no longer truly experience the beauty, magic and wonder of art; but, rather, actually become distracted in their feats to snag the picture-perfect photo of themselves with a revered, not-so-modern painting. #ArtSelfie may have started from a place of irony, but it’s really taken on a life of it’s own–because it’s fun. Plus, who hasn’t wanted to be that person with a face-swap of themselves with “Madame X” on their Snapchat story?
In cases like Kusama’s work, it would be odd to ask someone to not take a picture of themselves and absorb its wholeness. Her work, as most know, is immersive, and begs to be played and interacted with. In most press images, Kusama herself is found pitted within her work posing for the camera, serving the most fierce looks at 87 years old.
There’s something marvelous about the reproduction of art through social media and photography. Selfies have, in their own special way, the ability to revolutionize artistic interaction and engagement. People now have the ability to capture their personal moments with art, and market the pieces they so desire by posting it to whatever social media platforms they so choose. In the end, telling people how they are allowed to experience and indulge in art is silly and classist.
Selfies are great. Plus, they only take a few seconds to snap, so they’re clearly are not responsible for the long lines. Let’s blame legends like Kusama for always producing nonstop compelling content for that mess.
Images via The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Whitney, and ModeArte
Stay tuned to Milk for more selfie talk.