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Drip 4 – September 10, 2017

Museum “Selfie No-No Hall of Fame”

I think pictures in museum exhibitions should always be allowed, including selfies if that’s your thing. Copyright infringement is a legitimate concern but short of a professional photography crew setting up shop in an exhibition, it’s hard to imagine a selfie posing a threat to artists or their foundations. I just think we visitors should decide what kind of experience will have the most impact, so long of course as we are careful and respectful.

And there’s the kicker. Read one article on a visitor’s mishap while taking a selfie, be more careful. Read a second, where’s your chaperone. Read a third in the span of just a few months, WTF!

Exhibit 1: a broken Yayoi Kusama pumpkin at the Hirshhorn Museum. In February someone broke part of her ‘Infinity Mirrors’ installation that’s been on view from Washington DC, to Seattle, to Los Angeles, to Toronto and Atlanta, and which pretty much begs for Instagrammer attention.

Exhibit 2: $200K in damage to an installation of crowns in Los Angeles. There isn’t much to add to the video below, but this New York Times article covering the incident had a couple clever lines: “the Selfie No-No Hall of Fame may have found its Babe Ruth” and the series of crowns on pedestals of varying heights “were the very definition of selfie bait.” Interestingly the article also raises the possibility the incident was staged…

Exhibit 3: a damaged coffin at a museum in Essex, England. The poor judgement of parents outdid that of their offspring when they placed their kid in an 800 year-old coffin for a picture. God help us.

And I’m sure 2017 has seen plenty of other incidents by museum visitors in search of Instagram greatness.

The fact is that walking through an exhibition inspires creativity, which for many of us is manifested in the pictures we post on social media. We love to share our experiences, and museums love the free buzz we generate. But when someone gets too adventurous and ends up breaking something, it forces museums to justify their picture policy which doesn’t help the rest of us who think of a visit as much an experience to share as one to learn from.

Luckily, many museums continue to embrace photography and selfies. Until recently there was even an exhibition in London on the very subject. But know there’s an upside and a downside if your only interaction with a work of art is angling for a selfie. According to Ann Philbin at the Hammer, “the upside is that people share their experiences, word spreads, more people come, young people can relate. The downside: they don’t often have intimate or contemplative experiences with the art. That’s what we’re giving up.”

But what if we could do both…without breaking anything?!

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