Today we see the return of #MuseumSelfie Day making its third annual appearance. As my social media page is inundated with posed posts captured in museums and galleries around the world, I am struck by the strong connection that the relatively new phenomenon of the selfie has with the age-old tradition of portraying the self, and apparently I am not alone.
Self-portraits first took hold in the 1400s, developed by artists as a tool to promote their style and entice rich patrons. From then on the self-portrait – be it a drawing, painting, or photograph – has been the artist’s way of saying ‘Look at me, this is who I am and this is what I am about.’ Sound familiar? Like the self-portrait, the selfie is a carefully constructed image, eagerly seeking approval from its digital audience. So is the selfie the self-portrait of modern society: its tool the smartphone, its audience global?
This summer we are delighted to be working with the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, designing its headline exhibition Facing the World: Self-Portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei. This collaborative venture between the Scottish National Galleries, Stattliche Kunsthalle in Germany and the Musee des Beaux-Arts, France, draws together key pieces from each organisation’s collection. Facing the World: Self-Portraits from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei explores the artist’s obsession the self-portrait from the Renaissance to the present day.
Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to capture their own ‘self-portrait’ and add it digitally to the display. Taking the self-portrait out of the hands of the artist and placing it into the public’s, the evolution of self-portrait to selfie becomes tangibly apparent.