Are GIFs Art? The Pop Art Pair YoMeryl Discusses

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Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich

The duo behind the waggish art group YoMeryl have just led the Brooklyn Museum's first foray into GIFs As Art. With the same gentle irreverence they brought to their Lesbian Last Supper, artists Sarah Zucker and Bronwyn Lundberg give viewers short animations of famous women frolicking at the Brooklyn Museum. Lady Gaga emerges like a genie from a pair of shoes at the "Killer Heels" exhibit. Rachel Maddow interviews a crab from Ai Weiwei’s "He Xie." Lena Dunham has her cake at Judy Chicago’s "The Dinner Party." 

Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich

For their first museum commission, Zucker and Lundberg say they wanted to highlight the activity of museum spaces. Zucker says the GIFs display a "hyperreality that shows subjects engaging with art so much so that they enter the art or become part of the art." It's an experience perfectly suited to their chosen internet-friendly medium: GIFs pulse as if begging you to pay attention to them. 

Under the auspices of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, the YoMeryl team collaborated with Brooklyn Museum board-member Nicole Ehrlich. Ehrlich is Lady Gaga’s creative producer (she reports that Ms. Gaga said "this is the coolest thing ever" of her shoe GIF). The early champion for GIFs at the Brooklyn Museum, Ehrlich worked with the pair on translating their work into physical spaces. 

How can an artist  bring this virtual medium into the "real"? Can it be monetized in the art market? Zucker mentions the possibility of lenticulars and Lundberg details their plans to draw subjects and turn photographs of the sketches into GIFs later, so people can hold onto the originals. YoMeryl stamps their portraits with their signature Clever Girl logo — a floating blonde wig and red lipstick they apply to everything from sloths to velociraptors. They say the replication of the stamp is meant to evoke Pop Art, as well as give a nod to online memes.

It's still hard to know how GIFs will fit into the art world. But when Zucker declares that "art isn’t static; it changes," her blinking GIFs look like confirmation.

Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich
Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich
Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich
Photo: YoMeryl and Nicole Ehrlich