Excerpt from this article:
Increased visitor photography at galleries and museums has proved controversial at times. Recently a visitor to Los Angeles pop-up art gallery The 14th Factory destroyed $200,000 worth of crown sculptures. The sculptures rested on top of a series of plinths, and while attempting a selfie the visitor fell, knocking the plinths down in a domino style chain reaction.
Banning photography on the basis that it interferes with the visitor’s experience could be seen as cultural elitism; expressing a view that art can only be appreciated in an orthodox manner. It also ignores the potential of Instagram to bring a new dimension to artists, curators, exhibition designers and visitors.
Recent research at Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art Gerhard Richter exhibition showed that visitors use Instagram as part of their aesthetic experience. A number of participants posted Richter’s art works on Instagram creatively immersing themselves in the image, wearing clothes matching the art, and copying Richter’s signature blurred style.
Another study at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ Recollect: Shoes exhibition in Sydney found that audiences used Instagram primarily to engage with exhibition content; not by taking selfies. Visitors mostly photographed the intricate details of the shoes’ design.
This finding was echoed in a larger study that focused on Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Far from the narcissistic selfie-obsessive behaviour that much media coverage insists is occurring, Instagram offers visitors authority and agency in sharing their experience.
This connects audiences with museum content in a way that they can control and is meaningful to them. New research shows how this activity is also tied to place – the museum, and the city beyond it.
Using Instagram in public spaces like museums and galleries is complex. It’s tied to broader research that shows how social media use in public spaces is challenging a range of social norms.