[Best of 2015] This Year in Art Selfies

Whether groundbreaking or narcissistic, selfie art had a big year.

22 December 2015, 10:12pm

The #artselfie reached total ubiquity after getting its own book last year, courtesy of DIS Magazine. In 2015, it felt like most buzzed about museum and gallery shows went out of their way to include at least one artwork that was made for selfies, ranging from reflective pieces ideal for the solo snap or large and immersive installation works meant to entice any smart phone wielding art viewer.

This year also saw many major art selfie happenings and developments, including the creation of an art selfie museum in the Philippines, an exhibition highlighting the “selfies” of Dutch painting masters, and a legal debacle over a selfie taken by a monkey. Despite its prevalence and increasing relevance, many questions regarding art selfies and the culture around them remain. Do they promote art or self-indulgence? Perhaps a bit of both. Let’s take a look at this year in #artselfies.

A Lenin selfie. Photo: @moonlighttdz, via Instagram

+One of the weirdest selfie happenings of 2015 only reached a very specific demographic: Russian teens. Partially due to governmental support, #Selfiewithlenin became a viral trend amongst Russian youth, who actively sought out statues of the communist leader for the perfect selfie. Some took classic selfies, others sat on Lenin’s lap, and some even blew kisses to one of the world’s most controversial leaders of all time. Only in Russia.

+Dutch Self Portraits: Selfies of the Golden Ageis an on-going exhibition at the Mauritshuis Museum in the Netherlands. Positioning itself as a show of “the original selfies”, the exhibitionis a collection of Dutch self-portraiture painting, with works dating as far back as the 17th century. Intended to bring relevance back to the work of master painters, the show is successful in proving that artists have loved to show off their best angle way before the iPhone frontal cam came about.

+British gallery Turner Contemporaryalso held a selfie-themed exhibition. Self took a more current approach, showcasing over 100 self-portraits of contemporary artists including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and David Hockney. Of note in the exhibition was Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man by Jeremy Millar, a life-sized cast of the artist’s own body, dilapidated and full of bullet holes, lying face down on the floor. Without a doubt, the most morbid selfie on this list.

April, The Feminist Calendar 2016. All images courtesy Andrea Mary Marshall

+This year's overly sexualised, rarely criticised Pirelli Calendar was put on blast by artist Andrea Mary Marshall. Criticising the calendar and the media’s tendency to sexualise women or asexualise them if they are deemed intelligent, Marshall made the Feminist Calendar 2016, where she placed sexualised nudes and more conservative self-portraits of herself side-by-side to highlight the disparity of portrayal.

+Hats off to the Philippines, who inaugurated Art In Island this year, the world’s first so-called “selfie museum”. Specialising in 3D paintings and not simply an exhibition hall for selfies, what sets Art in Island a part is how it encourages and facilitates viewers to interact with and take selfies with the museum’s art. All they ask of you is to take off your shoes before attacking the work.

Kate Durbin, Hello Selfie, a performance at PULSE Miami Beach. Photo: Sarah Cascone

+Pulse Miami, one of the alternative fairs to Art Basel Miami, had a performance this year that highlighted the absurdity that often accompanies our selfie-crazed culture. Artist Kate Durbin’s performance Hello Selfie consisted of various women clad in underwear and Hello Kitty stickers taking selfies all along Miami Beach. Viewers weren’t sure whether these seapunk-y girls were performers or just over zealous selfie enthusiasts.

Image courtesy the artist

+Exploring the sheer volume of selfies taken and shared on the social media landscape, designer Suwanna Ruayrinsaowarot created a program for her senior thesis that visualises every image tagged with #selfie on Instagram, updated in real time. In order to view the feed, you must take and upload a selfie of your own first, forcing you to contribute to the endlessly flurry of images.

+Last year, a grinning selfie of a monkey went viral and lawyers argued about whether the image’s copyright belonged to the primate or to David Slater, the camera-lending human. Although it had supposedly been settled that Slater could license and profit from the image, this year PETA came down on the photographer in full force and sued Slater, arguing that “U.S. copyright law doesn’t prohibit an animal from owning a copyright”.

+Selfies have been the catalyst for many accidents, and 2015 was no exception. One incident of particular note happened in Cremona, Italy, where two impulsive selfie fanatics shattered the crown of the priceless Statue of Two Herculeswhile trying to get the perfect shot. To make matters worse, the statue was the iconic ‘symbol of the city’, and the perpetrators were visiting, further proving that age-old idiom that tourists ruin everything.

Photo: Ai Wei Wei’s Instagram (@aiww)

+There would be no better way to conclude 2015’s art-selfies than with political bad boys Ai Wei Wei and Julian Assange. Two of the most hated individuals by various governmental bodies came together for the most anti-establishment selfie of the year. Not much more needs to be said.

What were your favorite selfie moments of the year?


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