Selfie Generation

Posted on Monday, January 11, 2016

Written by Maggie Glisan, Art Noir Marketing Chair

In anticipation of Art Noir's Annual Meeting, the board's Marketing Chair Maggie Glisan chatted with the Art Center's Assistant Registrar / Curatorial Assistant Megan Cohen about the new exhibition Selfie: Self Portraits From the Permanent Collection.

Selfie considers both well-known and little seen self-portraits from the Des Moines Art Center’s permanent collections through the filter of popular culture’s obsession with the "selfie." Works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyke, Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, Mauricio Lasansky and Danny Lyon among others span the 17th century to the present. The exhibition is on view in the Blank One Gallery through Sunday, April 24.

Maggie Glisan: How did this exhibition come about and why the focus on selfies?

Megan Cohen: The original idea was a show to highlight all of the great self portraits that we have in our collection. The selfie lens gave us a great way to look at the pieces through the filter of the selfie social media phenomenon and also use it as a tool to connect with our own Art Center community.

MG: The Des Moines Art Center (and many other museums) hasn’t always allowed guests to take photos of its exhibitions or even inside some exhibitions. Now all of a sudden you are asking people to take selfies with works of art in the show. Why the change of heart?

MC: In 2014 the Art Center started allowing photography within the museum, and other major museums are also jumping on the trend. It’s a great way for people to interact with exhibitions and create their own experience. Sharing the photographs encourages friends and followers to see what’s happening at the Art Center, and can expose them to works of art that they may not have seen any other way.

MG: What’s your favorite piece in the exhibition?

MC: That’s a tough one! I have a couple that stand out. 

Cindy Sherman

First is Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #56. This piece really speaks a lot about how the media affects our interpretation of self-identity.

Second would have to be Ragnar Kjartansson’s Me and My Mother I. A lot of people might think, “Why do you have a video of someone spitting in the show?” But I think it’s a great work of performance art that asks us to look to at one of our biggest identifiers: How do we interact with our families? For me, it evokes some memories of my own family, and I can see the humor in it. Some might think “that’s weird” and move on, but I encourage people to stop and give it a chance, even if makes them uncomfortable.

MG: Why should members of Art Noir check out Selfie?

MC: Art Noir members are the selfie generation. The exhibition can resonate with all audiences, but millennials in particular are so immersed in the social media culture that this exhibition is pertinent to their everyday lives.

MG: What's the best way to experience Selfie and how can I be a part of it?

MCStart with the Selfie exhibition, then take some time to tour the museum and find something you really like in our permanent collection—something you feel really connected to (that is what you should do with any exhibition you see!), then go ahead and take a selfie with the piece. The more creative then better! Upload it to Twitter or Instagram using #ArtCenterSelfie. Then, go back into the exhibition and see yourself in the show!


As part of Selfie: Self Portraits from the Permanent Collection, we're asking visitors to become a part of the exhibition! Post your own selfie with the hashtag #ArtCenterSelfie to have your image included on our gallery display. 

Participating is easy:

  1. Make sure your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram profile is public. We won't be able to pull images from private accounts
  2. Take a great selfie with a piece that inspires or means something to you (whether it's at the Art Center or in your own art community)
  3. Be sure to include the hashtag #ArtCenterSelfie
  4. You’re done!

You can view your #ArtCenterSelfie in the gallery or online after you leave the museum.

Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954)
Untitled Film Still #56, 1980
Black and white photograph
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Purchased with funds from the Edmundson Art Foundation, Inc., 1992.40
Photo by Rich Sanders, Des Moines

entirely unexpected