Museum selfies have become a thing, and are even encouraged by some museums to draw younger visitors. There are entire blogs dedicated to museum selfies. Museum Hack, which gives quirky, unofficial tours of major museums around the country says on its website, “Museum selfies are an awesome way to engage audiences with your museum and collections.”
Lisa Krassner, chief member and visitor services officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said, “Visitors are here to enjoy our collection and exhibitions and the entire experience, and we welcome individuals capturing and sharing that experience through photography — as long as it’s done in a way that doesn’t endanger the art or interfere with the experience of others.”
(Museum officials are not as embracing of the selfie stick, which some, including the Met, have banned.)
Our Los Angeles woman is hardly alone in the annals of the selfie-clumsy. At the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, a huge hit featuring immersive mirrors, a patron caused roughly $800,000 in damage after shattering a glowing LED pumpkin in February.
In 2015, in Cremona, a city in northern Italy, a sculpture — “Statue of the Two Hercules,” carved more than 300 years ago — was partially shattered thanks to a pair of overindulgent self-photographers.
In these cases, the selfie-takers damaged the art. In other cases, the art has damaged the selfie-taker. In 2014, an American student, on a dare, decided to take a photograph from inside a 32-ton sculpture in the shape of a vagina at Tubingen University in Germany. He got stuck. Firefighters got a call to rescue a man “stuck in a stone vulva.”
In other instances that didn’t go well for the art: at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, also in 2014, a student decided to climb a sculpture from the early 1800s that was a copy of an ancient Greek sculpture, “Drunken Satyr.” The statue’s left leg fell off.
Last year, in Lisbon, a tourist in his mid-20s climbed a train station to take a selfie with a statue of Dom Sebastiao, a 16th-century king in Portugal. The statue crashed and shattered and he was arrested and charged with destruction of public property.
We could go on, but won’t. Advice for selfie-seeking museum goers: Keep your distance — the likes will come anyway.