Artiquette: How to Take a Winning Selfie with an Art Star

Remember to #KeepItReal.

Yayoi Kusama with fans.Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.
Yayoi Kusama with fans.
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.

Artiquette is a series that explores etiquette in the art world.

Andy Warhol. Image: © 2015 Marcia Resnick from Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982 by Marcia Resnick and Victor Bockris, published by Insight Editions. Used with permission.

Andy Warhol catching up with the news.
Image: © 2015 Marcia Resnick, from Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982 by Marcia Resnick and Victor Bockris, published by Insight Editions.

The history of the selfie arguably dates back to even before Kodak invented their simple-to-use Brownie camera at the turn of the 20th century. In 2013, “selfie” was such a commonly-referenced phenomenon that the Oxford English Dictionary named it their “word of the year.”

Suffice it to say, the selfie has since served a number of purposes thanks to the ubiquity of digital photography—not the least of which has been a penchant for snapping photos of celebrities. There is, after all, something to be said about coming across an idol and having the burning desire to do something to commemorate the occasion. Who can pass on an opportunity to immortalize the encounter when a phone is already in hand?

Should the posterity-conscious reader take interest in taking such a photograph, there are some rules of etiquette that come in handy. In the time I’ve spent circulating in art world spaces, I picked up on some dos and don’ts of the practice, and I rounded up some words of advice below.

#aiweiwei comes to #Beirut #cominghome #airplaneselfie @aiww

A photo posted by Habib Battah (@habib_b) on

1. Artists are people—so play down the hero worship.
More often than not, artists tend to sport their own unique, albeit endearing, brands of weird. Not everyone is ready for a close-up, so it’s best to keep the adulation to a minimum.

2. On the other hand, some artists pretty much live for public interactions. Indulge them.
It’s no secret that some personalities crave the crowd more than others, and when it comes to artists like the beloved cross-dressing award-winning ceramicist Grayson Perry, they more or less cater to their fans.

3. Conversely, if they don’t seem interested, spare yourself some heartbreak and leave them alone.
Only the bravest souls can squeeze in impromptu photos like the one above.

草間彌生しゃんと同じお洋服きてパシャパシャ!

A photo posted by きゃろらいん (@kyaro2519) on

4. Either way, do it or don’t. Gawking is just awkward.
Imagine a stare-down with Yayoi Kusama and you’ll know what I mean.

Casual. X. Muriendome. (Dijo que tenía hambre) #tribecaball

A photo posted by Laura Noguera (@aaaaaureliaaaaa) on

5. If you know they’re famous, odds are that they probably do, too; so try to keep it real.
Skip the small talk and cut to the chase: “May I take a photo with you?” works nicely.

Hanging with the fabulous Rashaad Newsome at their first Canadian exhibition at the AGYU.

A photo posted by John Caffery (@johncaffery) on

6. If they agree, take the photo yourself. Their friends will thank you.
Unless, of course, someone you know doesn’t mind doing you the favor.

Author with Jeff Koons.

Author with Jeff Koons.

7. When in doubt, take it for someone you love.
I ran into Jeff Koons at the New Museum’s annual gala on a recent Monday night. He’s a swell guy, but let it be known: I took mine for someone special.


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