Is the ‘selfie’ the latest genre of contemporary art?

The renowned Saatchi Gallery launched the world’s first selfie exhibition last year. Titled ‘From Selfie to Self Expression’, the collection of front-facing camera shots was on view at the Sloane Square based gallery in March 2017, running for two months. Alongside exploring the role that the selfie plays within the world of art, it also aims to highlight the smartphone as an artistic medium, commissioning 10 artists to produce work using only their mobile phone.  As the world of art prepares to open its doors to this medium and subject matter for the first time, we can’t help but ask the question – is the selfie the latest genre of contemporary art? And how long will it be until it becomes the norm, seen in galleries beside still life paintings, abstracts and more?

Rising to mainstream popularity in 2013 when it was named Oxford English Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year’, many now mock the selfie, seeing it only as an end-product of vanity. Something which can be easily re-produced by anyone possessing a smartphone. Yet, on the other hand, surely it is the ultimate form of self-expression. It’s one that, aided by the internet, can be completely controlled and manipulated by the person who makes it. Is this not an artistic notion in itself?

The act of capturing one’s own image and presenting it for the public to see is not new. Although the first ever photographic ‘selfie’ is thought to have been produced in 1839, the self-portrait has been a respected genre of art since the 15th century, spawning many famous paintings from the likes of Lucian Freud,  Frida Kahlo and of course, Van Gogh. Here at FineArtSeen we also have many self-portraits, even in the form of a photograph. Is the selfie just a natural, modern day development of this celebrated art form?

Like anything in art, the answer may lie in the reason or meaning behind each individual selfie. Not every personal picture that is posted on snapchat, Instagram or stored in a phone is a work of art. However, if it was created with the intention of displaying the subject’s personality via creative means or has a poignant cultural significance then perhaps, yes, the selfie could be considered a form of contemporary art. Do you agree?

There are certainly many selfies out there that are fantastic to look at, portraying the same sense of awe, beauty, curiosity and charm that any piece of original art would. And ‘From Selfie to Self Expression’ celebrates this, showcasing modern day selfies alongside ‘Old Masters’ such as Van Gogh, mentioned previously, and other respected ‘self portrait’ artists such as Cindy Sherman.

So is the selfie now an established genre of contemporary art? 

Do you respect the selfie as an art form or is it just a fad? We love to hear your opinion – share your thoughts in the comments below.


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