The Selfie Threat in Museums

Recent trends of museum visitors taking selfies have posed significant challenges for art institutions worldwide. Hiscox, a specialist insurer, has reported instances of individuals taking selfies and damaging valuable artwork by walking backwards into paintings and objects. This rise in artwork damage is prompting concerns among curators as it is happening in many prominent art institutions around the world.

“Pre-mobile phones people had a sense of what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Now when people have a phone in their hand, it’s as though they have no inhibitions,” comments Robert Read, head of Fine Art and Private clients at the Hiscox insurance company, according to The Telegraph. “But somehow that feeling of getting a picture means whether it’s damaging a painting or damaging yourself, those barriers no longer seem to exist.”


Despite the seemingly humorous nature of these incidents, the resulting financial losses and harm to irreplaceable artwork are serious matters. In 2017, one careless selfie-taker caused $200,000 in damages at a Los Angeles art exhibition featuring sculptures by UK-born artist Simon Birch. Also in 2017, a selfie taker’s loss of balance resulted in damage to a pumpkin sculpture by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama within her renowned Infinity Mirror Rooms.


To address these new challenges, art curators have to adapt to new technologies and their potential threats. Many venues from Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art to the British Museum have banned selfie sticks due to concerns over safety, individual privacy, and the overall visitor experience.