The Arts and Art of Social Media


It doesn't matter where you venture out to on a Saturday: crowds of people are always there to welcome you. And this particular Saturday at The Getty Center in Los Angeles made no exception.

   After having spent some time in the east and south pavilions, I made my way to the west. Once I began approaching the European works dating after 1800, I knew what was awaiting my fellow patrons and me. Among the classics of Degas, Monet, and Cézanne was Vincent Van Gogh's Irises. The oil on canvas painted in 1889, inspired by the gardens at the asylum in Saint-Rémy, France where Van Gogh was once a patient.
   As I was completing my lap around the room, I happened to glance over and couldn't believe the crowd that had formed around the renowned artist's painting. I don't know what was more alarming; the fact that a line was practically forming or that guests weren't doing much observing at all. But snapping countless photos from every angle possible.
   Now, I can't say I'm exempt from the consistent itch to Snapchat or Instagram my every move of the day. It's the idea engrained in our minds that our social media accounts are to be used to present only the entertaining moments of our lives, in turn making us feel like we have to immediately capture any flash of aesthetically appealing activity - museums being absolutely no exception. And while we've surely been told to put down our phones and savor those fleeting moments, I never actually examined the negative side effects until that disturbing scene in front of a Van Gogh original. I couldn't help but feel a sense of disappointment for the rest of the artists whose paintings were hung in the same room. Patrons didn't exhibit nearly the same amount of enthusiasm for their work. Not to be mistaken, I too was excited to study the painting, but I think it should be noted that every piece of work is equally deserving of our attention.
   I am quick to defend the occasional Instagram spamming though, because why shouldn't you be able to document your experiences? After all, everything we are doing now will be a memory one day. At the risk of sounding pretentious, being surrounded by some of the most highly acclaimed artists to have ever lived warrants at the least, a bit of social media propriety, but let's not overkill it or anything.

New York Times columnist Stephanie Rosenbloom wrote a piece discussing The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum. Rosenbloom quoted James O. Pawelski, director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, suggesting that museum-goers should allow themselves minutes instead of seconds to study a piece of art.
   Adjacent to every painting or sculpture is an explanation about the artist and the techniques used to craft their work. It's in our best interest as museum patrons to read them and form our own opinions. Just because impressive, architecturally designed buildings house fine works of art doesn’t mean we have to actually like each and every one. But the least we can do is take the time to consider them.
   Like I stated before, I too am guilty of the social media bug. However, I also understand and often need to remind myself that works of art, whether they be showcased in a museum or present just in our everyday lives, still continue to be beautiful even when they don’t make it to our Instagram accounts.

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