24/03/2017 09:58 GMT | Updated 25/03/2018 06:12 BST

From Selfie To Self-Expression

Nigel Hurst

Chief Executive of the Saatchi Gallery, London

In 2013 "selfie" was announced the "word of the year" by the Oxford English Dictionary, as it represented the epitome of contemporary culture's transition into a highly digitalized and technologically advanced age.

The story of the selfie is not one which only belongs within the 21st Century alone. We can track self-portraiture from the Renaissance through to Rembrandt, Van Gogh and later, modern self-portraitists like Schiele, Picasso, and Warhol.

Fast forward to 2017 and over a million selfies are taken every day, epitomising our obsessive pre-occupation with the viewer and the viewed, their world experience and how it relates to our own through the distorting lens of social media. The 21st century is a world where the selfie seems to have affected every form of visual narrative, from fine art to news reportage. The selfie has emphatically become one of the most significant expansionist forms of visual expression.

From Selfie to Self-Expression presented by Huawei will run at the Saatchi Gallery from 31st March - 30th April. The show will be the world's first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to present day. Not only celebrating the truly creative potential of the selfie, but also highlighting the emerging role of the smartphone as an artistic medium for self-expression in the way we choose to document the world, ourselves and those around us.

Selfies can convey a mood, create a scene or tell a story. Selfies are often consciously staged in terms of props, composition, colour, lighting and backdrop, so that an artistic intent and element of pre-production becomes an important factor in framing the context of selfies if they are made in an artful way.

The arrival of the phone camera was initially seen as an unnecessary novelty originally, because the quality, resolution and pixilation of images didn't anywhere near match digital cameras or analogue SLR.

However very recent advances in smartphone technology mean that we can now produce studio quality photographs on our handsets. They have become an integral part of how we document our world and communicate what interests each of us or what we find noteworthy, beautiful, compelling or memorable; using this new-found visual platform that can easily be shared.

As part of From Selfie to Self-Expression, the Saatchi Gallery and Huawei have commissioned ten visual artists to create new works using Huawei's new P10 dual lens smartphone, co-engineered with iconic camera brand Leica. Reprising the spirit and energy of the Young British Artist movement which first launched 25 years ago; the works of these 'Young British Photographers' will go on display in a gallery dedicated to world-class smartphone photography. The roster of the ten photographers includes Alma Haser, Tom Hunter, Christopher Nunn, Laura Pannack, Simon Roberts, Jonny Briggs, Emma Critchley, Hannah Starkey and Matt Stuart. Turning their gaze outward to the world around them in their own unique ways, the work of this group of photographers provides an arresting and contrasting counter-balance to the array of selfies in the exhibition.