Lucy Redoglia is looking for a basket. Usually something materializes when she’s stuck on a particular song lyric or quote, but in the whole collection on display, she’s only found a porcelain basket. It’s not quite right, so she’s still hunting, frowning at the search results on lacma.org. She’s putting together a Snapchat story with the final essay from John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club, and she has every character matched to a piece of art. Except for the Basketcase.
Lucy has been in charge of LACMA’s famous Snapchat since April. Since the Snapchat account started in 2014, its pithy, witty, and popular culture-conscious posts have captured the attention and delight of not only art fans but regular Snapchat users as well. As of the end of October, the account has over 160,000 followers. Lucy manages more than just Snapchat—she also engages the community with the museum’s Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest—but it’s the Snaps that have grabbed so much attention. Essentially, Lucy photographs works from the collection and frames them in a pop culture context, placing memes, quotes, and song lyrics over the image and sending it off to the world. It looks easy, and the posts come off with the in-the-moment zaniness that Snapchat fosters, but the process takes a culture-savvy mind and a good sense of humor.
“I have a huge document that I track my ideas in,” Lucy says as she’s planning out The Breakfast Club. “So I’ll write down phrases and pop culture references and hashtags that I think are funny and relevant and I will try and think of artworks to go with them. Sometimes, either online in the collections or while I’m walking around, I’ll see some ridiculous artwork that I think is awesome and I just need to find the right caption for it. Usually it’s the pieces of a puzzle just scattered in the document and then I’ll put them together with the proper song lyrics or caption.”
“Most of my colleagues know I tend to ask for people’s opinions on things—I have to get the laugh meter going.”
When she finally settles on a suitable basket—a woven sculpture in the Art of the Pacific gallery—she gets to work.
“I’ve got my Snapchat shoes on,” she says, looking down at her teal Havaianas. “No wedges for walking through the galleries.”
Because of the way Snapchat stories function, Lucy walks from painting to painting in the correct order, which sometimes means jumping from building to building while she’s putting together the Snaps. “Sometimes two paintings are right next to each other but they’re at the beginning and middle of a song and I have to walk back and forth through the galleries. I’m starting to really get a good feel for the layout of the galleries and which pathways are the most direct.”
We head off to the Ahmanson building for the first piece of the puzzle. She shoots the Brain in the Art Catalogues on the first floor, John Baldessari’s Water on the Brain. It’s a big brain, dripping with blue dye, right in the middle of the store. As we head to the elevator, first shot successfully uploaded, Lucy consults her list. “We’re lucky it’s all in the same building today. I swear I walked four miles while putting together the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ story,” she says. “I had my step counter on.”
The Jock is a particular Italian vase on a shelf on the third floor. The vase dates back to 300 BC, featuring two acrobats showing off their skills—perfectly fitting for any jock. She gets on her toes and stretches her arms up to get the shot, which she retakes three times. On the way back to the elevator, she checks the metrics. The views are already up to 1,500 on the first snap and it’s only been four minutes.
We come to the Basketcase. It’s an enormous sculpture, five feet tall, a Papau New Guinean dance headdress from the 1880s. The figure’s hair is a wild assortment of jet-black feathers. She laughs, squaring up in front of it. “I think it’s a good Basket case—it looks like the goth girl.” The hair is a decent approximation. She zooms in on the face as she shoots a video and laughs again as she reviews it.
We come to the final snap: a seventeenth-century Italian gilded bronze Risen Christ, fist in the air just like Judd Nelson. She sighs, “Oh, it’s the perfect Jesus.”
Lucy lines up the shot at least ten times, fixing the angle to be just right. She asks me to shuffle to the left, to the right, to cut out the glare on the glass. It’s all very particular. The figure needs to be at such a position so the LACMA geotag doesn’t cut out the hand (Judd Nelson would hardly be Judd Nelson without his fist in the air) and the text doesn’t cover the feet. She flicks the screen to the test the LACMA geofilter, finally satisfied with the alignment. The story complete, we check the metrics again. By now, the first image has reached 12,000 views in the 36 minutes it took us to drift from artwork to artwork.
She reviews the Snap story one final time as we leave the galleries. “Any attention toward these artworks that may well have been long forgotten and never ever consumed by the average person on Snapchat, they’re getting a second life there. Art can’t be devalued. Whatever you do to it, it’s going to stand up to the test of time and history and parody.”
Besides breathing new life into the artwork, the Snapchat account also helps LACMA with its mission of accessibility. Like all of the museum’s social media, it’s meant to engage audiences on different levels. It opens up new ways of looking at art, one that doesn’t necessarily require a background in art to appreciate.
“Snapchat has, in a lot of ways, embodied one of the goals of LACMA to be relatable and approachable, to be a community space that’s owned by everybody. You don’t have to be an art historian to follow us on Snapchat. You don’t have to ‘get it’ in terms of the scholarship of the artwork. You just are there to be entertained.”
Follow LACMA’s Snapchat at @lacma!