Yes, you read that right. With the announcement of the exhibition, From Selfie to Self-Expression, and its coinciding public project, the #SaatchiSelfie competition, earlier this week,comes the possibility that your selfie could be displayed in London’s Saatchi Gallery come March.
Teaming up with smartphone brand Huawei, the gallery will allegedly be the first in the world to dedicate an exhibition exploring the history of the selfie. Although all of the artists and photographers involved are yet to be announced, the gallery has confirmed that works by Vincent Van Gogh, Cindy Sherman and Juno Calypso, amongst others, will be present. As well as works defined as “icons of the digital era” – that is, photographs that have gained mass cultural significance and some which have gone viral. For example, George Harrison in front of the Taj Mahal or Barrack Obama’s now-infamous selfie with then-Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, alongside then-UK PM, David Cameron, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, as an unimpressed Michelle sat beside them, out of shot.
From Selfie to Self-Expression will be split into four sections: “The history of the Selfie from the Old Masters to present day”, “Iconic selfies from beautiful and sublime to the mad bad and dangerous”, “UGC and interactive artworks and #SaatchiSelfie competition”, and “Self-Expression”. The latter will feature ten young British photographers commissioned by Huawei to create new works for the show. For now, people can log on to Saatchi Gallery’s website to see an ever-growing bank of selfie submissions being entered into the competition. The selfies will be judged by a group of artists before one is chosen to be displayed in the gallery itself.
Questions about what makes a “selfie” art will likely be raised. Is it only art if the person creating it identifies as an artist? We see Cindy Sherman’s self-portraits as art but does Obama’s phone pic constitute as art? What about Kim Kardashian, who published a book of her selfies, titled Selfish, with Rizzoli – a leader in art books – in 2015. Or Amalia Ulman, the artist whose 2014’s “Excellences and Perfections”, played out over Instagram with a series of selfies of her in hotel bathrooms or holding shopping bags in the mirror. Although it wasn’t revealed at the time that it was a performance, since its conclusion, the body of work has been shown in art institutions such as London’s Tate Modern and the Whitechapel Gallery.
It will prove interesting – as well as important – to see if and how the exhibition highlights these disparities.
From Selfie to Self-Expression opens March 31 2017 at London’s Saatchi Gallery