(image by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

(image by Benjamin Sutton/Hyperallergic)

Oh, art museums. You’re so fickle — like a guy who sends a charming message on Tinder and then disappears after the first tryst. First you encourage us to take selfies, to hashtag and share them, then you tell us you don’t want our sticks. What’s it gonna be, museums? Selfie or no?

“I am pro-selfie, just not pro-selfie stick,” Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Mashable. The Met has actually not yet banned selfie sticks but is currently weighing its options, with “visitor safety and protecting our art” in mind. Among the museums that have specifically banned selfie sticks, according to the same article, are the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum, Dia:Beacon, the Getty Center and Villa, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). All of these institutions allow photography for personal use in the galleries.

But most of them don’t specifically list selfie sticks as banned items on their websites; instead, they list monopods, a category into which the sticks arguably fall. And if that’s the case, selfie extenders are also outlawed at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), the National Gallery of Art, and probably a whole bunch of other institutions. “The selfie stick does fall under the category of tripod/monopod,” Kimberly Daniell, manager of communications for the DMA, told Mashable. Naturally, she added: “However, we actively encourage visitors to snap selfies in the galleries.”

Look, I get the impulse to ban selfie sticks; free Friday night at MoMA with the things would be like rush hour in Midtown Manhattan on a rainy day, when the the only way to avoid being poked in the eye by a passing umbrella is to walk in the middle of the street. But I really don’t appreciate the mixed messages these museums are sending. If they want us to promote their brands by making sexy faces with all their famous artworks, shouldn’t they be accommodating whatever tools are necessary to make that happen? Can’t they just allow selfie sticks and offer a seeing-eye person to whomever shows up with one? I mean, what will they ban next, drones?!

You can fight it all you want, museums, but the selfie spell has been cast, and it cannot be broken.

Jillian Steinhauer

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

8 replies on “Defiant of the Future, Museums Ban Selfie Sticks”

  1. You imply that Ms. Daniel’s and perhaps others’ motives for encouraging selfies with the paintings in the museums is that it results in “. . .promoting their brand. . .” Well, maybe that’s a special sort of Dallas thinking about promoting art. Everywhere I see selfie sticks (in Rome it’s wall-to-wall with them) I see people actually looking less at whatever they’ve come to “see,” and focusing on themselves. Whatever the motives for including oneself in the documentation of the visited place, the photo composed by a friend or a stranger can at least have a variety of relationships between the self and the scene. The stick puts the self in a fixed foreground with little opportunity to appreciate anything else. Isn’t it clear whom that’s promoting? And yes, I prefer my museum visits without a stick in the eye.

  2. This may be hard for the selfie-obsessed to grasp, but a museum’s main responsibility, after the safety of its visitors, is the preservation and safety of its collection, which consists largely of unique, irreplaceable objects. In this context, doesn’t it make perfect sense that the management of a museum might not want a lot of people standing with their backs to fragile, irreplaceable objects welding long sticks that can fall on and damage the art work. Overcome your narcissism, use your arm, snap your picture, and move along so I can look at the stuff on the walls with my eyes, not my iPhone (or my butt, for that matter).

  3. Curious. Why would someone spend money and put up with the inconvenience of carrying a selfie stick all day long when they could just ask someone to take their picture?

  4. People will use them to get their phones closer to the art, potentially harming priceless items of vast cultural importance. But by all means, screw trhat so you can have an ameture shakycam image of something that you can find online in high-def, just so you can say you took that pic…

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