Selfies quick and dumb – Schama

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Published: Wednesday 1st April 2015 by The News Editor

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Historian Simon Schama has spoken of his disdain for selfies, saying the craze constitutes “quick dumbness” rather than true art.

Speaking at the launch of his upcoming exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, Schama said there was no comparison between great portraiture and “the meteorite shower of images which we contribute to and come to us every single day”.

He said: “What we love about selfies and phones is that it’s of the moment. I seem to lose phones about twice a week. But the true object of art is endurance.

“It’s a way to remember that particular look on a loved one’s face or that look you think is funny on a politician’s face and provide that X Factor thing rather than the quick dumbness.

“It’s the equivalent of white noise, and great portraits deliver the music.”

The historian – whose exhibition, The Face of Britain, will explore the stories behind some of our most famous portraits – also spoke of his dislike for the new digital reconstruction of Richard III’s face, saying it resembled Wolf Hall actor Mark Rylance.

He said: “It looks weirdly like Laurence Olivier or the actor Mark Rylance.

“I hate it because it makes it very mechanistic. It doesn’t look like a real human being.

“It completely undercuts the role if the artist. Reconstructions are not a work of art, they are a work of scientific craft.”

Schama’s latest project, which will culminate in a five-part series to be broadcast on BBC2 in the autumn, includes an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London and a book which will be released in September.

Set to feature a huge range of portraits – from Tudor paintings of Henry VIII to Annie Leibovitz’s photograph of John Lennon and Yoko Ono – the project will explore work from a variety of periods in a bid to understand the true “face of Britain”.

Published: Wednesday 1st April 2015 by The News Editor

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