In the 19th century public galleries opened to provide access to art for the enjoyment and education of all members of society. At this time, it was common for paintings to be displayed close together from floor to ceiling to create a ‘salon hang’, named after exhibitions held in the Salon Carré of the Louvre, the national museum of France. This arrangement was often guided by instinct rather than a planned concept, and could transform the gallery goer’s impression of the exhibited paintings.
BP Spotlight: Source, until September 14 at Tate Britain in London, highlights similarities between the mass display of art in a salon hang and the ability of 21st century digital and social media platforms such as Tumblr and Instagram to present large numbers of images in a single location online. Digital artworks created in response to the display are presented alongside Tate collection works, selected for the visual qualities they share with images created for these contemporary platforms.
The rise of social media along with the mass distribution and consumption of images is transforming how we communicate visually. Images can be easily accessed, they are repeatedly re-used and presented out of context, and the source of the image is immediately replaced. This alters how origin, meaning and content might be read, raising questions about the value of originality and authenticity of the image’s original source.