Museum of Ice Cream, San Francisco
mliu92 via Flickr

Ben Luke: The Art Newspaper

Museums have long accepted smartphones as a ubiquitous appendage to many visitors’ bodies—London’s National Gallery lifted its photography ban in 2014, for instance. And now, images taken on those phones are driving visitors to exhibitions and collections, particularly through the social media app Instagram—the primary means for gallery visitors to communicate their art experiences. Certain exhibitions are now defined by their Instagrammability. But are museums and galleries planning for this level of interaction and social media buzz?

“The way that galleries, museums and organisations understand photography in their spaces has changed—and rapidly,” says Cliff Lauson, a senior curator at the Hayward Gallery in London. And Lauson’s 2018 Hayward exhibition Space Shifters was a case in point. The critic Hettie Judah wrote in the Independent that it was likely to turn into an “outrageous selfie-fest”, and her words proved to be true. But Lauson says that Instagrammability was not in his plans when developing the show and that the art was always central. “The show was about artists using innovative materials in a way that creates a unique experience and makes the viewer part of the work,” he says. “The compulsion to document, photograph and share with your friends might be an extension of that, in that it is, in one sense, an experience-based economy that we live in. So it’s no surprise that people felt compelled to do those things that they do quite usually.” …Read More