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How to fast-forward through Guernica

15 September 2023

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

We’ve seen Guernica used in protests against the deaths of Syrian refugees and in protests against the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Now, however, Picasso’s political epic of 1937 is entering trenches of a different sort: the selfie wars. Who will look most alluring in front of the masterwork? Will we see, God forbid, the appearance of a #guernicachallenge on TikTok? It’s all to play for now that Madrid’s Reina Sofía museum has changed its rules to allow photography in the Guernica Room, under the instruction of its new director, Manuel Segade.

The museum’s aim is not, though, to provide a flattering grisaille backdrop – it is, rather incredibly, to speed up the movement of visitors through the room. ‘It only takes a few seconds to take a selfie and so the pace of the public will flow more,’ said one museum spokesperson. Oh, sweet summer child – clearly Segade has never experienced the trial that is taking a reasonably attractive selfie. Especially so, perhaps, given restrictions remain on the use of selfie sticks, and additional chins are a real risk in images snapped only an arm’s length away.

What would Picasso make of all this, Rakewell wonders? The artist was, of course, no stranger to self-portraiture, with more than 30 created between the ages of 15 and 90. It is, perhaps, only a matter of time before our present-day master of the selfie, Kim Kardashian – lover of modishly grey cars, grey interiors and grey clothes – makes full use of the photo op.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.