Saatchi Gallery Has A New Exhibition Filled With Selfies

Selfie to Self expression, Saatchi Gallery ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 21 months ago

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Saatchi Gallery Has A New Exhibition Filled With Selfies Selfie to Self expression, Saatchi Gallery 4
Benedict Cumberbatch photobombs U2 at the Oscars. Courtesy Mike Blake / Reuters

We step in front of a screen showing our reflection, but then suddenly our on screen eyes start to smoke before they are 'stolen' and placed at the bottom of the artwork as some sort of trophy.

In another room, artist Juno Calypso rises up out of a bathtub in a hotel honeymoon suite, her reflection cast in the mirrors that surround her.  

There is an entire room of people talking to the camera in videos. It's cacophonous.

This is the Saatchi Gallery's Selfie exhibition, and nothing has been held back. Rather than tentatively asking whether selfies are art, the exhibition simply embraces selfies in their many guises in a fun and interactive way.

Cindy Sherman has used appropriated photos in many of her artworks. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

We enter a room full of traditional self-portraits of some of the greatest artists in history — Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet and Kahlo. But this isn't like any other museum, as they aren't originals, or even prints. The works are all on screens, with no descriptive label, simply a smartphone where visitors can tap a heart and like each work. Art historians may consider this means of displaying famous works blasphemous, but like it or not, this is how a lot of the world consumes art these days.

A George Harrison early selfie in front of the Taj Mahal, from 1966. © Harrison Family

After the Old Masters we segue into selfies of Leonardo DiCaprio, David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Andy Murray. They are certainly memorable, and probably got a lot of Instagram likes, but they seem strangely out of place in a gallery setting. Is a wall full of celebrity photos what the future of museums looks like?

There was an open competition running in line with this exhibition, and this one was shortlisted. Copyright Felicia Simion.

There are plenty of works here by contemporary artists including one of Tracey Emin covering her genitalia with piles of cash, and Sergei Vasiliev's moody black and white photos of Soviet prisoners and their many tattoos.

The show gets fun in a section called 'mad, bad and dangerous' where extreme selfies made us question what's real versus what's fake. Is that man really taking a selfie as he tries to outrun a bull? Surely a pilot wouldn't reach a selfie stick out of the window mid-flight?

More people seem to be taking selfies than actually looking at Hillary Clinton. © Barbara Kinney/Hillary for America

But the exhibition isn't all light and fun. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, responsible for the exhibit which turned our eyes to smoke, has created an entire room full of cameras. As we enter, we're projected onto the walls as if we've been caught by a surveillance camera. It's creepy and brings home the idea that CCTV is always watching us in a way that feels a lot more real.

We guess there's nothing left but to head down there and take a selfie in the Selfie exhibition ... then post it on Instagram. Oh wait, we've already done it.

Selfie to Self-expression is on at Saatchi Gallery until, entrance is free. The exhibition has now been extended and the second run is from 6 June - 6 September.

Last Updated 18 July 2017