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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.
Every utopia is a social experiment, the artist suggests in this commission for the Performa performance art biennial, and we’re ultimately the guinea pigs.
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