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Label: renwick gallery

Friday 15th January 2016The Renwick Takes Instagram

When you think about a gallery, you probably don't immediately think about taking photographs. Many of us have grown up in a world where photography was generally prohibited in galleries museums, largely because of the nature of flash photography and the need to protect the works from the damaging impacts of hundreds of thousands of strobe flashes every year. This has shifted of late thanks to the rise of the cellphone camera and their excellent low-light abilities, removing the need for a flash to capture the scene.

The clever curators at the Renwick Gallery, which has just recently re-opened after an extended absence, decided to take advantage of this by filling the gallery with signs that say 'Photography Encouraged'. This has led to a surprising prevalence of smartphones throughout the gallery, and by extension the digital world is now filled with photos of the latest exhibits. Over 20,000 images have been uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag #RenwickGallery, which perhaps is no surprise considering the impressive number of visitors the museum has had in the first six weeks since it reopened. Over 176,000 people have passed through the doors in those weeks, which is truly incredible considering the average visitor count for the entire year was only 150,000 before it closed down.

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of photographing gallery pieces, however. Many people are bandying about a 2013 study that claims that those who photograph art don't connect as deeply with it, conducted by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University. “You’re not looking at this giant, rich, textured, nuanced thing. You’re already reducing it by looking at it on the screen. The photo is a trophy. Their experience is not a very rich experience then.”

But this seems more like an indictment of the modern method of interacting with content, a reflection of a world where there is literally so much to be considered, it should be no surprise that what impacts one person won't impact another in the same way.

Nicholas Bell, curator-in-charge of the Renwick, says, “I think that for different visitors, they’ll find their own ways to engage most intimately with the exhibition. For some people, that will be to not take photographs, and for some people, that will be to take photographs. I don’t think that we should judge.”

“It’s like this new first-person narrative of the museum experience. I’m fascinated.” You're not the only one, Nicholas, so cheers for being open to the evolving nature of narratives in a technological world. 

Posted on January 15th 2016 on 08:10pm
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