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August 31 2019
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The masterpiece, c’est moi.

No, I’m sorry, One: Number 31, 1950, a classic wall-size drip painting by Jackson Pollock that hangs in the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City, is not like a person roaming Times Square dressed as Spider-Man: you should not be taking a selfie with it. The painting is not just a prop, like a fanciful cocktail, for you to use as an excuse to post another image of yourself online. The painting is not a mere tourist attraction, like the world’s largest thimble, that you may wish to show you have visited. Rather, One: Number 31, 1950 is a magnificent work of art that, when we commune with it, puts us in touch with the Sublime. But when people stand in front of the painting taking selfies, as they seem to constantly, sublimity goes out the window. The selfie-takers block our view, they disrupt our concentration, they offend us with their vanity, and, worst of all, they diminish the power of the work by reducing it to something banal: the background in a snapshot of themselves on vacation. The selfie-takers must die.

I don’t mean to be harsh. God knows, I have been guilty of insensitivity myself as a tourist: wearing shoes in a mosque, speaking English to a Frenchman. Visiting Third World countries, I have taken pictures of the inhabitants in their colorful native garb, treating them like exotic animals in a zoo. Moreover, I don’t lightly exercise my power over life and death. It’s just that people are now endlessly taking selfies in all the great art museums of the world, and I believe that someone must put a stop to this, no matter what the human cost.

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