When you’re out with a friend and take a photo of yourselves, do you know that you are also creating a work of art? Or that you are competing with Vincent van Gogh himself? Probably not. Your idea might be to show off your selfie on WeChat or QQ, but you probably don’t think of the internet as a gallery or of yourself as an artist.
But the chief executive of London’s Saatchi Gallery, Nigel Hurst, thinks that the casual pictures we take of ourselves have something in common with self-portraits by the great masters. In support of the idea, the Saatchi Gallery has a new exhibition called From Selfie to Self-Expression.
It features well-known self-portraits from artists including Dutch painters Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Rembrandt (1606–1669). It also has selfies on show that have “quickly become icons of the digital era.” These include one taken by US celebrity Kim Kardashian and another of former US President Barack Obama with former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, according to the BBC.
The gallery is even encouraging visitors to add their own selfies to the show.
Hurst is perhaps not being 100 percent serious. He isn’t claiming that a snap (快照) you take of yourself in your favorite restaurant can be compared with a self-image painted by Van Gogh. But he does make a serious point. Once upon a time, it was only artists who could make images of themselves. They were the only ones, as Hurst told The Guardian, who “had the skills, materials and tools to create self-portraits.” Today, however, we “all have that [ability] through our smartphones.”
The popularity of the selfie rocketed after smartphones started to become widely used. In 2013, Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” as its word of the year. As Pamela Rutledge, a professor at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, told Vogue magazine: “the cult of (对......的狂热) the selfie celebrates regular people”.
And Hurst described the smartphone selfie as an example of “a shift in society using technology as a means of self-expression”. He told The Guardian: “The selfie generation is becoming the self-expression generation as each of us seeks to explore and share our inner creativity through the one artistic tool to which we all have access – the smartphone.”