Jakarta. Despite attempts by Jakarta's new Museum MACAN to prevent a repeat of an incident last year when a visitor to Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden damaged a pumpkin in Yayoi Kusama's "All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins" installation while trying to take a selfie, it seems some visitors to Kusama's current "Life is the Heart of a Rainbow" exhibition at the Jakarta museum simply couldn’t keep their hands to themselves.
Amanda Aulia, a part-time member of the staff at Museum MACAN, posted a series of Instagram stories on Thursday (17/05) on her account @amansaulia showing damages to Kusama's works caused by visitors touching or moving them, including half rubbing out one of her famous polkadots.
The Instagram stories were deleted on Friday, but not before Janitra on Twitter (username @chanzino) screencapped some of the stories to show her annoyance that visitors to the Kusama exhibition were behaving like "Instagram slaves."
The photos show a visitor hugging one of the installations, a polkadot that now looks more like a half moon and a silver ball from Kusama's "Narcissus Garden" exhibition that has been forcibly moved from its pedestal.
And it wasn't just Kusama’s artworks that suffered damages from the "Instagram slaves." One of Entang Wiharso’s plexiglass paintings at the museum’s Children’s Artspace is shown lying on the floor in one of the photos.
Amanda’s caption for this photo read, "Separated from the others because it fell off the wall [crying emojis] again, because some people simply can't follow the rules."
One of the Instagram stories that have disappeared featured influencer Cath Halim sitting on the kitchen set in Kusama’s "Obliteration Room." The artwork asks for audience participation but sitting is only allowed in chairs.
Another Instagram user commented on Cath’s photo, telling her she wasn’t supposed to sit there, but Cath replied by saying she had received a permission to do so from the museum coordinator.
Amanda told the Jakarta Globe via a text message that she obtained the photos on her Instagram stories from her co-workers, meaning that they don’t belong to the museum’s official archives.
The Jakarta Globe asked Museum MACAN if the photos were accurate. MACAN's communications officer Nina Hidayat said museum staff have not seen any damage to Kusama's artworks.
"Some visitors have touched the artworks [against museum rule], though we keep reminding them not to," Nina said.
Commenting on Cath’s photo, she said the museum had tried to remind influencers on how to behave in the exhibition and how to treat the artworks.
"We've respectfully asked some of them to take down [social media] posts that show them behaving not according to museum rules," Nina said.
She said the museum sees this "selfie debate" as room for improvement "to protect the artworks better and to communicate our rules better."
Museum MACAN has already posted its rules and regulations for visiting the museum several times on social media.
On Instagram, it has a story highlight called "Dos and Don'ts."
Some posts on their feed list the dos and don'ts again, reminding visitors to walk slowly, to be careful when peeping into some of the artworks and to not lean on walls or sit on the floor.
MACAN Not the Only Victim
The chirpstory thread on the incidents at Museum MACAN is also filled with complaints about Indonesians behaving poorly at other art exhibitions.
Apparently, Museum MACAN is not the only one to have fallen victim to the "Instagram slaves." Similar complaints have been made about this year’s ARTJOG exhibition in Yogyakarta.
One of them, by Twitter user @FergieFebrina, said no artworks has been damaged at ARTJOG, but that she had seen many people taking their sweet time posing for photos in various positions in front of an artwork, preventing other visitors from enjoying their art in peace.