The Art in Island Selfie Museum in Manila, Philippines
Not even a decade ago, a primary on-the-job nuisance for most museum staff might have been preventing patrons from getting too close to the exhibits. However, in the era of the selfie and the selfie-stick, exasperated museums around the world have taken to banning selfies and selfie-sticks on museum property. 21st-century museum patrons now want to climb, explore and touch museum exhibits as much as they can for the sake of strategically choreographed selfies.
The reason why museums ban selfies
What would Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso or Pollack make of the selfie or the dreaded selfie-stick? What would the grand masters of pre-21th-century art think of a culture insistent on treating their artwork as props to stand in front of instead of as artwork to analyze and appreciate? (For my money, I think Salvador Dali would have wholeheartedly approved of and embraced selfie culture. Probably not many others though.) The Smithsonian Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among several other museums worldwide, have banned selfies and/or selfie sticks outright. Waving around a selfie stick while trying to focus on photographing yourself next to priceless exhibitions can result in irrevocable damage to exhibitions or injury to other patrons. Ultimately such scenarios can end costing the museum much more than anyone else.
Reported selfie-related incidents
In 2014, at an art exhibit in Tubingen, Germany, it took the combined skills of 22 firefighters to gingerly free an American tourist whose legs became caught in a priceless sculpture. In 2016, a sculpture of a Portuguese king was destroyed at a Lisbon train station when a tourist climbed on it for a selfie. He only succeeded in knocking it over and destroying it. Such selfie-related instances of art destruction are only increasing in frequency, not subsiding. When did the emotional zeitgeist for art appreciation, which is now an ostensibly defunct instinct from the 20th century, turn from appreciably looking at art to wanting to be looked at while standing in front of a priceless work of art? More importantly: is that really such a bad thing?
The museum where selfies are fine!
There is a museum in Manila, the Philippines that says, no, no it is not. The Art in Island museum in Manila, Philippines, which is the world’s first selfie-themed museum, actively encourages patrons to pose with art displays. In fact, the exhibitions on display at Art in Island only truly becomes art after a patron strategically poses in front of an exhibit. The resulting selfie becomes the actual piece of art and not the art exhibit itself, per se. Visitors to Art in Island are fully encouraged, and expected, to sit, stand, stand next to, touch, climb and physically engage the art exhibits. There are fully immersive, room enveloping 3-D paintings as well as many unfinished paintings and exhibits that are only finished when a patron stands or poses in front of it.
For example, there is a painting of the Mona Lisa at the Art in Island museum with a levitating paintbrush superimposed in front of the painting. If you stand in front of this Mona Lisa-themed exhibit and strategically pose your hand in front of the levitating paintbrush, then the resulting selfie will make it look as though you, the patron, are the one actually painting the portrait. The entire Art in Island museum exhibition is designed to be maneuvered within 2 hours. Art in Island is open 6-days a week and 12 hours a day. A decade or two ago, the main purpose of a museum visit was for the patron to focus on the art. However, for better or worse, we now live in an era where the beholder of art ostensibly has become the art.