Art Selfie Movement


By Cleo Bergman

Photo courtesy of Olivia Muus, Museum of Selfies.

For some, snapping “selfies” is an empowering motion of enjoying who you are and what you are doing during everyday moments. For others, the practice is viewed as narcissistic, and defeats the purpose of enjoying the moment in its entirety. This debate has gone beyond bathroom mirrors and into art spaces worldwide, where viewers are either taking pictures with artwork (see: Beyonce), or photographing artwork with a selfie element.

Olivia Muus, owner of the growing art Tumblr page Museum of Selfies, began a particular selfie project that fits in the latter description: making the subject of a portrait appear to be taking a mirror selfie. On her page, Munn states that the practice started out as a fun idea, which ultimately turned into a much bigger endeavor once she realized how this selfie element “could change their character and give their facial expression a whole new meaning.”

While Muus disagrees that technology infringes upon the traditional art viewing experience, she states she’s “not a big fan” of people posing next to artwork.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Muus, Museum of Selfies.

“I would much rather see the painting alone (or with a hand and iPhone),” she says. “I wish people would flip the camera the other way around more, and show what they are looking at instead.”

The beauty of her unique selfie project is that it celebrates artwork while adding a selfie twist without the fear of seeming narcissistic.

“What people like about it is that they can take part [in the art] themselves. It is a seflie phenomenon that isn’t selfish,” Muus states.

Others, such as art critic and writer Alicia Eler, believe that selflies are neither good nor bad. Rather, selfies encourage a different and modern manner of experiencing artwork that fits in daily life–much like Munn’s project.

“Taking selfies with a work of art could be a populist move, making art more accessible to the masses through social media,” Eler reasons, “but more likely it is a distraction from the viewing of work itself.”

While some galleries ban or restrict taking selfies, Eler insists that there is “no right answer” to the sentiment behind their actions.

“It is just a different way of experiencing the work through the lens of selfie culture. It’s our world offline; online, it’s ‘your world,’” she continues, “so I say curate it as a reflection of how you want people to see you. It’s your mirror.”