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A Note On Art Exploitation: Why Do People Insist On Taking Their Photos In Front Of Artwork?

Why Do People Insist On Taking Their Photos In Front Of Artwork?

Going to so many art shows in this city, you start to notice trends. Certain parts of town attract certain audiences, certain nights of the weeks dictate a certain type of atmosphere (whether it is a party or not, etc.), certain bring out art celebrities, certain bring out real celebrities, and certain venues you can expect drinks or food or neither: art openings can become a little bit predictable. There are always people who wander in or who are not constantly going to shows, invited to support a friend or just curious what is going on. Regardless, there is no way to tell by looking at a person what their relationship to art is. One thing that is becoming a “thing,” though, seems to be a rookie practice in art viewing: having your photo taken in front of a piece of art. Certainly this is not a uniquely Los Angeles thing but it is annoying nevertheless.

We started to notice this months ago, maybe even at the Art In The Streets opening, where everyone wanted their photo taken in front of the Banksy church wall or within the Street Market. That seemed normal, seemed like something even we’d want to do. This kept happening, though: at Corey Helford’s Fifth Anniversary show last summer, there were people doing it; at PULSE, people were standing in front of things everywhere getting their photos taken; and at Tim Biskup’s THIS show, people were definitely posing with his pieces even within such a small space. At this point, we were attending so many art shows within the city that we had to start catching these people: we had to take photos of them getting their photos taken.

Why Do People Insist On Taking Their Photos In Front Of Artwork?

As you can see in the photos above, these are a few of the people we’ve caught at shows having their photos taken in front of pieces of art, flash and all. Yes, duh, everyone has done this before and this is something that is as old as the camera itself. The problem with it, like the woman at the Gagosian show exemplified, was that she had to get her photo taken in front of every single piece with every single person she knew there. She glided from painting to painting like the Martian Woman Spy in Mars Attacks!, passing off her camera to a friend with every painting. This, in turn, got a mom to start taking a photo of her kid in front of all of the pieces, which then sparked a group of friends to have their photo taken as a group, and so on and so forth. What is this all to service? At a show like Damien Hirst’s Spot Paintings, you would assume that the crowd gathered at the Beverly Hills art destination would be on their best behavior, one of the most behaved audiences in town. A photo in front of one, sure. But seventeen? Are you kidding? You are a grown ass woman: stop it. And, at that show: take a photo in front of one, you’ve taken a photo in front of them all.

This is all likely a reaction people are making as they are constantly seeking a new profile photo for whatever social media outlet they want to fill. But, how obnoxious is that? Don’t ruin everyone’s experience by posing with pieces of art. Art shows are not tourist attractions, asking for you to pose before them like it’s Grauman’s or the Griffith Observatory or the Hollywood Sign: we are inside of a museum or gallery–act like it. Sure, Urban Light at LACMA gets treated like this constantly and it’s not right–but it’s okay. Someone like Damien Hirst or Daniel Ashram, whose piece is seen posed before at the top, or any other artist does not create pieces for you to use it as a background for a profile photo: they are not Olan Mills backdrop artists exhibiting for you to have a photo shoot in. The very least you can do in taking photos like this is step aside and have your photo taken *next* to the piece–not in front of it or posing, pulling a Lynndie England pose. And, at an opening? How tacky. Come back another day, with a photographer, then have your photo taken if it means that much to you.

Sure, having your photo taken in front of artwork isn’t hurting anyone: it’s just really annoying. Maybe it hurts the painting? Probably. Regardless, it just isn’t right and it’s becoming something really, really apparent at shows that lots of people care more about having their photo taken with a piece of art rather than taking it the piece of art in. Maybe that is just how they appreciate it…Who knows?! It doesn’t seem like something to condone and maybe we’ll just have to start photographing all these people and logging it in this post, a running log of people who can’t help but pose in front of artwork. Then, maybe we’ll send it to the artists whose work is being posed before.

In any event, if you see someone taking photo in front of art, take a photo of it and send it to us: we will be sure to share in this now open forum of art exploiters.

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