My very first article on this website was about Statue Selfies: pictures of marble statues photographed in a certain way to make it look like they’re taking a selfie. To quote the article, “Despite that I’m an American teenager, I don’t like selfies. I’ve never taken a selfie. But I found these statue selfies some of the most amusing stuff on the Internet.” But now, selfies may have have gotten out of control.
This is a Nineteenth Century copy of a Greco-Roman statue known as the Drunken Satyr. This statue is, or was, housed at the Academy of Fine Arts at Brera in Milan, Italy. Some months ago a certain student broke the first rule of visiting a museum: don’t touch anything. This genius decided to hop onto the outstretched leg of the half-man half-goat figure to take a selfie with it, resulting in the damage that you see above. The only question I had after hearing about this (other than what possessed this person to do it) was whether he got the picture or not.
The most recent effect that selfies have had on the art world was just last week, when the David Zwirner Gallery in New York had to beef up its security to prevent selfies. This was because of an exhibition that the gallery was hosting, showing the works of DeWain Valentine, a sculptor who mostly uses glass, resin and fiberglass in his statues. So you may see the issue here. People taking selfies get too close to the pieces. The pieces are made of glass, so they may fall over and shatter. The Zwirner Gallery has had problems with selfie-taking visitors getting too close to the works in the past, like at its recent Yayoi Kusama exhibit.
Now, some museums and galleries are a bit militant when it comes to photography in general. The Museo del Prado in Madrid has banned photography altogether. The Musée d’Orsay in Paris has banned photography, but you’re allowed to freehand sketch your favorite pieces if you wish. You can take pictures at the Galleria Uffizi in Florence, but you must obtain a permit from the gallery to do so. However, there are some places that do the opposite. The Royal Ontario Museum has recently been encouraging that people take pictures of themselves with their Greek and Roman statues (not standing on them, hopefully) and posting them on social media. The National Gallery in London has lifted their photography ban, promoting visitors to share their experiences at the gallery. So, I’ve become quite indifferent towards taking pictures in museums. I’ve taken countless photos in museums (some of them when I probably wasn’t allowed to). But if there’s one place where a selfie ban must be put in place, it’s the Louvre, and I’ll tell you why.
Almost a month ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Paris. I visited the Louvre, one of the largest, most-visited museums in the world, the home of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. I got to the front of the crowd to see Da Vinci’s masterpiece myself. However, instead of the beautiful artwork that I was expecting to see, I saw probably the greatest display of narcissism that I’d ever seen. Approximately two-thirds of the crowd had their back to the painting… with their phones on sticks raised in the air to get a selfie with it. Please, just look at the painting! It’s arguably the most iconic piece of art in the world, and you’re taking a picture of yourself instead? You don’t need your phone to see the painting; the quality on the actual painting is flawless, it’s like HD! Plus, I nearly had an aneurysm over the countless number of duck-faces that I had to pass at that place.