LA’s best Instagrammers took over this contemporary art show

Trying to catch a moment.
Trying to catch a moment.
Image: Quartz / David Yanofsky
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LOS ANGELES—How do you promote a contemporary art exhibition in the age of social media? For the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the answer was to bring in some of LA’s most-followed Instagram users and let them preview an exhibition.

The show, a retrospective of the multi-discipline French artist Pierre Huyghe, is tremendously hard to photograph, especially with a smartphone, due to its wide range of media: scent, sound, fog, light, and even living creatures.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, co-organized the event as part of their #empty series. Instagram has helped with similar gatherings at the Frieze Art Fair, the Louvre, MoMA PS1, and the Guggenheim in New York.

The series attempts to bring the museum experience into a digitally social age, and to draw young people to museums. In this case, a show to experience much more than one to see, pictures fall short in conveying much of its intent. But this is still one way to intrigue possible museum-goers, offering a tantalizing glimpse of the sprawling 52-item exhibit.

“I recommend you just sit and take it in,” the curator of the exhibition, Jarrett Gregory (at left in the photo above) told the group before they entered. But the nooks, crevices, and rooms created from oblique walls in the exhibition space begged to be explored. The photographers didn’t sit still for long.

The experiential nature of Huyghe’s work made it particularly difficult to capture: One work is rendered only in scent, and another consists of a man and his voice, shouting your name as you enter the exhibition. There is a work whose only media is a Ibizan hound.

The dog wanders around the gallery, seemingly uninhibited. Sometimes she follows around a work titled “Player”—a man whose face is obscured by a light-emitting mask. But pictures give no sense how jaunty the dog’s movements are, nor how well-trained she appears to be.

There are ants crawling on walls, and live bees swarming the head of a reclining figure. But again, the unsettling experience of these insects buzzing around you is hard to capture, or even see, in pictures.

The lighting changes: Sometimes it’s dark, sometimes it’s bright.

Participants can play a version of the video game Pong on the ceiling, in a piece called “Atari Light.”

Then there is a turtle fossil.

And fish tanks.

There are also more conventional sculptures, drawings, and photographs, though they appear to have gone largely un-Instagrammed. All the photos from the day can be seen under the hashtag #emptyLACMA on Instagram.

The exhibition is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from Nov. 23, 2014 to Feb. 22, 2015.

Correction (Nov. 22): An earlier version of this item incorrectly described Instagram as “organizing” previous events. According to a spokeswoman, Instagram merely provided guidance to those events, which were organized by the museums.