Is social media ruining the gallery experience?

The argument on this topic has a wide variety of opinions. The “no photography” rule at most museums exist because of copyright restrictions and also the risk of flash damaging artworks, however museums have begun to loosen up on limitations.  Its becoming almost impossible to regulate photography so museum directors and managers have learned to embrace it rather than try to prevent it. Today the the National Gallery of Art, the Getty Museum, and even the Metropolitan Museum of Art to name a few have allowed visitors to photograph most collections.

Although some believe that social media such Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. and the selfie phenomena are ruining what one would call the gallery experience, there are others who believe that social media could actually help draw audiences to galleries and museums. In today’s culture, people take photographs of almost anything and almost everyone has a smartphone. However now the issue becomes whether or not people appreciate the artworks they encounter or if they are documenting their experiences for more “likes” as sites like Selfies at the Met, Museum Selfies, and others emerge. Even marking January 22nd as Museum Selfie Day! Even Jay Z participated…

Jay Z at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh via Art Info

Jay Z at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh for Museum Selfie Day via Art Info

Either way the use of social media and smartphones by visitors and museums is actually supporting the arts by drawing in a younger generation of supporters and increasing awareness for artists.  Installations of 2013 that were deemed the “most Instagrammed” are “The Rain Room” at MoMA, and “Infinity Mirrored Room” by Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner Gallery, and “Two Small Skyscrapers (Quasi Legal Skyscrapers)” by Chirs Burden at New Museum in which visitors waited in line for hours to experience and take photos of.

“Infinity Mirrored Room” by Yayoi Kusama

As a culture we communicate more and more with images and the online possibilities of communication offer opportunities to share images and talk about them or to even just appreciate them. With social media, art that were typically shown in museums and galleries can be shared with millions of people and can revive interest in older works as well. Despite all the positive outcomes of the use of smartphones, social media, and image sharing, some purists still believe that reduces the museum experience. Personally I think having access to all works of art online is a great way to learn, experience and appreciate art which can drive audience numbers and institutions should be less restrictive on photography policies because I believe art should be shared. To each their own I guess!

Some food for thought next time you’re taking a selfie next to a Van Gogh. I know I will be.


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