Should Museums Ban Selfies for an Hour Every Day?

Katy Perry taking a selfie in front of Will Cotton's Cupcake Katy at the National Portrait Gallery.
Photo: Paul Morigi/AP Images for National Portrait Gallery.

Imagine a designated hour in which visitors to art museums had to put away the smart phone and look at art with their eyes, not through the lens of their mobile devices. As reported by the Telegraph, Peter Bazalgette, the chairman of the Arts Council England is proposing just that, asking art galleries and museums to institute a limited ban on selfies.

In an interview with LBC radio, Bazalgette admitted it would be up to museum staff to enforce the restrictions, “but at least people would understand there’s a rule. On the whole, I’m in favor of sharing it as widely as possible.”

Though Bazalgette claims to support guests taking pictures at museums, noting that such behavior helps to share artworks “as widely as possible,” he does feel that museum staff are fighting a “losing battle” against cell phones, which can distract other guests “and they’ve just given in.”

“There are some issues, I believe, about flashes and the quality of prints and things, but that’s a relatively minor issue. Do you know something? I’m completely in favor,” Bazalgette added. “Let’s allow it, but let’s have each gallery have an hour a day where it’s like the quiet carriage on the train.”

London’s National Gallery stopped banning photography in its permanent collection galleries earlier this year, and is now even encouraging visitors to share their photos on social media. A museum spokesperson said that policing would-be-photographers had grown “increasingly difficult” as more and more guests began using museum wi-fi to access educational information about objects in the collection. The rules now permit photography as long as selfie-takers “respect the wishes of visitors and do not hinder the pleasure of others by obstructing their views of the paintings.”

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