A National Gallery selfie by Instagram user @aveskies (via Instagram)

A National Gallery selfie by Instagram user @aveskies (via Instagram)

One month after the big news that London’s National Gallery now allows visitors to take photographs, the head of Arts Council England has proposed that museums institute a special hour every day when picture-taking is banned. “Let’s allow it, but let’s have each gallery have an hour a day where it’s like the quiet carriage on the train,” said Arts Council National Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette in a radio interview cited by the Telegraph. Not to be confused with the technological naysayers who see only selfie-snapping zombies, though, Bazalgette added that “I’m completely in favor” of allowing visitors to take pictures in museums — “On the whole, I’m in favor of sharing it as widely as possible.”

To someone who loves a good quiet car as much as a good Instagram post, Bazalgette’s solution is appealing, a measured proposal to reconcile the photo-haters with the photo-takers. But a system of asking guards to stay on top of visitors and visitors to police themselves during just one specific hour also seems prone to confusion and difficult to enforce. In that sense it’s not all that different from new museum photography policies asking visitors to be polite and respectful about blocking artworks when taking pictures — and even those seem to be proving hard to pull off.

Naturally, the emphasis in all this discussion has been not on picture-taking, per se, but on selfies, since they are the parting shots of Western civilization issued from the palms of our hands.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...