The British capital's Saatchi Gallery on Friday launches
"From Selfie to Self-Expression", which it says will be the
world's first exhibition looking at the history of selfies.
It kicks off with Rembrandt, the 17th century Dutch artist whose
dozens of self-portraits created an intimate autobiography with
confident brushstrokes. His paintings are represented on digital
screens that one can "like", resulting in a red heart appearing
over the image - just as on social media.
Modern-day selfies are different because they show "how we would
like the world to see us, rather than how we are and who we
are," said Saatchi Gallery Chief Executive Nigel Hurst.
"It's no coincidence... that most selfies are shot in pretty
exotic locations, on holiday when people are experiencing things
that are away from their humdrum, mundane lives," he told
Reuters. "It's not about sharing our humanity, it's about really
sharing a version of our identity that we would like people to
In the digital age, the selfie has become ubiquitous, and the
word was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.
Running to the end of May, the exhibition includes selfies by
soccer player David Beckham and reality TV star Kim Kardashian,
and even the first selfie shot by an animal (a monkey).
"People transform social media into something that is very
expressive of being Chinese, or English, or Trinidadian and that
is also true of the selfie," said University College London
Professor Daniel Miller, who researched the phenomenon around
"In southern Italy, people feel they almost have a
responsibility to represent Italian stylishness. In Trinidad,
you want to be highly individualistic."
The exhibition concludes with a critical stance on selfies, with
an installation by Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and
Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko of 12 surveillance cameras.
"Selfies are not an option, it's something that is opening out
our identity for good but mostly for bad, shaping up a
controlling society," Lozano-Hemmer said.
"The problem is not that we don't have privacy any more."
(Reporting By Marine Hass)
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