Social Interaction in the Art Museum
A visit to an art institution is expected to require visitors displaying certain etiquette and adopting certain social conventions. For example, the architecture of the building and the physical context of the galleries as well as the spatial arrangement and the gilded framing of the exhibits seem to raise certain expectations while informing and shaping visitors' decorum. Nevertheless, visiting a museum is also a social event with the majority of visitors arriving as part of a group. Following Goffman's dramaturgy and frame analysis theory, this article draws upon videotaped fragments of visitors at least in dyads at the Courtauld Gallery, London, UK, in order to explore their embodied visiting and viewing practices. By focusing on the ways visitors connect with the collection as well as socially share parts of their experience with each other, this article aims at challenging the notion of the visitor being static and the museum experience being ocular centric.