Lulu Guinness

  • A ‘selfie’ is the most accessible form of visual self-expression today: all you need is a smart phone and thirty seconds. No wonder it’s such a popular medium of representation. Selfies have reached such a high pop-cult status that even a book filled with purely selfies of Kim Kardashian ranked in the bestseller charts. But is it art? The sheer proliferation of selfies, cluttering our social feeds makes that a difficult question to answer. We all know the various ‘types’ of selfie-pose: the artificially relaxed mirror face, the exaggerated pout, the carefully-studied nonchalant gaze, the cracking-up-with-laughter-because-I’m-having-so-much-spontaneous-fun-right-now shot, the consciously natural and the awkwardly unnatural snap. All are painstakingly curated, with carefully thought-through backgrounds, lighting, setting and mood.
  • Yet, there’s something endearing about the vulnerable self-consciousness that comes with this kind of explicit representation. And an implicit understanding that they are, after all, just a construction of how we want the world to see us, rather than a natural self-expression. The recently opened Saatchi Gallery exhibition 'From Selfie to Self Expression' states that this medium is most definitely art. It explores the ‘history’ of the selfie from Old Masters’ self-portraiture to the present day digital obsession, from celebrities and dignitaries, right through to you or me.
  • In keeping with the modern theme, many of the images feature digital and user-generated content, by a hugely diverse range of artists: Christopher Baker, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Juno Calypso, Tracey Emin, Van Gogh, Mohau Modisakeng, Rembrandt, Cindy Sherman, Gavin Turk and Velazquez. Gallery-goers can interact with canonical self-portraits by clicking ‘like’ on a nearby smartphone, bringing artists such as Rembrandt and Kahlo into our perpetual modern day popularity contest. Highlighting the emerging role of the smartphone as an artistic medium for self-expression, the creative potential of the selfie is revealed as the modern, ultimate self-expression. The exhibition is now open until 30th May 2017 at the Saatchi Gallery.