Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:
So, there you are, having worked your way through a crowd denser than a Brexit negotiation, standing in front of your prize. The Mona Lisa in the Louvre. What do you do? Look more closely at that enigmatic smile? Wonder at the subtle gradations of light and shadow in Leonardo’s rendering of the face? Admire the illusion of depth?
No, of course not. You turn your back on the painting, whip out your phone and take a selfie.
And then you move on to your next prize.
You could be forgiven, amid the Brexit fracas, for not having noticed that Wednesday was Museum Selfie Day, a ‘fun day to encourage people to visit museums’, in the words of Mar Dixon, whose brainchild it was.
A fun day? Not to the critics. ‘Art is serious. It is not light entertainment,’ the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote sternly in 2015, adding that selfies were a ‘spiritual menace’ to museums and galleries.
This might seem pompous and overwrought. For selfie enthusiasts, such critics are curmudgeonly snobs making ‘the age-old “us and them” divide: between those who use museum collections “properly” (for education or cultural self-improvement) and those who use them “incorrectly” (for mere distraction or entertainment).’
But who’s really being snobbish here?