Museum and gallery exhibits are becoming photographic backdrops as institutions work social media into their engagement and advertising strategies, Hayward Gallery Senior Curator Cliff Lauson writes. How do we balance artistic integrity with popularity?

'Around a decade ago, while abroad, I remember attending my first social-media-specific press viewing for an art exhibition. It was held in the evening, there was a DJ, sushi and cocktails – this was not a normal press viewing. The museum definitely had “young and hip” in its event brief. What was fascinating was that, unlike normal art critics, who dutifully carry around branded press folders and small notebooks, listen politely to speeches and generally stay within their own private thoughts (lest another journalist steal their critical take on a show), these influencers were actually very social with each other. They helped to set up and pose for each other’s photos. They shared tips on lighting, angles and which lenses to use. They brought props. And they weren’t actually that interested in the sushi – or the art, for that matter.
Nowadays, 10 years later, I’ve been having multiple cases of déjà vu. People I see at the start of my visit to an exhibition, posing in front of artworks to have their pictures taken, seem to be appearing later the same day, still in the galleries, still posing, sometimes in front of the same artworks, but wearing entirely different clothing. This behaviour is increasingly common, I am reliably informed by gallery docents: These guests pack a few sets of clothes, change in the bathrooms and then spend hours trying to take the perfect snap for Instagram. They’re not press influencers; they’re just digital natives out to take some good photos to post on their feeds.' ... Keep reading on The Globe and Mail