It’s one thing to sneak a carefully positioned selfie in front of the Matisse cut-outs, but the burgeoning trend for art selfies has gone into overdrive over the pond with Kara Walker's sugar-coated sphinx, "A Subtlety" (also known as the "Marvelous Sugar Baby"). The statue in New York's Domino Sugar Factory has been dubbed the "most selfie-inducing art installation of the year" – and thanks to a new website called sugarselfie.us, you can join in from the comfort of your own home.
The website uses old-fashioned webcam technology to place you right in front of Walker’s installation, which it describes as the "SELFIE EVENT OF THE SEASON". Nobody has stepped up to take credit for the selfie genderator, but we guess that sugarselfie.us has been inspired by the proliferation of offensive Instagram selfies taken by installation visitors since the exhibit opened in April.
"A Subtlety" is meant to serve as a commentary on the sugar cane trade and perceptions of black women through history – but as Artnet reports, some visitors seem less taken with its take on racism and slavery than with the fact that the statue is naked. Her exaggerated breasts, bottom and vagina have all been the subject of "hilarious" selfies (and lest you miss out, sugarselfie.us lets you take a photo from the back, too).
From the student who destroyed a 19th century statue to the man who got stuck in Fernando de la Jara's marble vagina sculpture, the quest for the perfect selfie is increasingly stepping on artistic toes (or, in the case of the student, ripping off its legs). But is Creative Time, who have commissioned the exhibit, entirely blameless? Some have cited their official hashtag, #KaraWalkerDomino, as indirectly encouraging such "interactive" engagement with "Sugar Baby".
Whoever’s to blame, the offensive selfies attached to the piece have highlighted a remarkably tasteless trend – and redirected debate, sadly, away from the work itself. As Kara Walker told Artnet, "Nudity is a thing, apparently, that people have a problem with; not slavery, or racism, but female bodies, or bottoms."
Follow Claire Healy on Twitter here @clairehly
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