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Author Topic: Are museums ruining art?  (Read 4450 times)
theguywitha645d
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« on: August 20, 2012, 09:18:51 AM »
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I hate these paternalistic rants that assume the author is the only that can truly appreciate these works and in the "proper" way. If people get a kick out of have a photo with one of these paintings, let them have their fun. How does the author know they don't enjoy the work?

Lets call out the myth of flash photography being able to destroy an artwork. That is absolutely false. You can try it at home. The output from a flash is too insignificant to cause fading, even with a million visitors.

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michael
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« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2012, 09:37:08 AM »
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Sorry, but you're off base.

Mark makes no assumption of superiority of his perception. He simply points out that the acts of a few are destroying it for the many. It's a matter of situational expectations. Talking loudly on a cell phone in a restaurant is just boorish. Talking on ones phone in a movie theater during a show is just unacceptable.

As for the effects of flash on paintings – you obviously have no experience or first hand knowledge in this area. Talk to any art conservationist. UV exposure is cumulative. No, one flash will do little harm. Hundreds upon hundreds over years will do significant damage though.

Michael
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alainbriot
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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2012, 10:02:14 AM »
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I believe that Mark's essay and Michael's remarks are spot on.  I believe that the goals of a Museum should be to protect art and to offer an opportunity to enjoy, contemplate, study and reflect upon the meaning and the importance of art.  Museums should not allow behavior that is counter to these goals.  One of the reasons why I love art is because I was able to visit museums in France and throughout the world where such behavior was not tolerated. I doubt that I would have developed the same appreciation and respect for art if I had experienced art in the conditions Mark describes in his essay.

Alain Briot
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 10:04:06 AM by alainbriot » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2012, 10:15:09 AM »
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Although i have not yet experienced such extreme nuisance in museums i can sympathize.  I am not sure if disallowing photos in general would be the right way.  This seems to be a broader cultural issue not specific to photo technology.

And not all museums that forbid photographs do this primarily to reduce annoyance by photographing visitors.  Supporting sales of reproductions of the artwork also seems to be a common reason.  Although this would probably not solve the 'trophy hunting' described it would be great if museums made available high quality digital reproductions of their artwork.  Technically this is not a big deal these days but still - as far as i know - most well known paintings are essentially monopolized concerning reproductions despite the fact that for most copyright on the art itself has expired.  And ensuring the broad digital accessibility of our cultural heritage could in fact have a positive influence on the trophy hunting mentality in the long term.

And this reminds me there is always the open question if the priority with cultural heritage should be preservation or making it available to those interested for education and inspiration...
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Christoph Hormann
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2012, 11:25:15 AM »
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Concerning the effect of flash photography on art, I found this -

http://people.ds.cam.ac.uk/mhe1000/musphoto/flashphoto.htm
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2012, 11:36:54 AM »
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As for the effects of flash on paintings – you obviously have no experience or first hand knowledge in this area. Talk to any art conservationist. UV exposure is cumulative. No, one flash will do little harm. Hundreds upon hundreds over years will do significant damage though.

Michael

No effect. Not only do I work with art conservationists, it is also part of my professional background. Hundreds of years of ambient light is far more destructive.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2012, 11:47:50 AM »
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I believe that the goals of a Museum should be to protect art and to offer an opportunity to enjoy, contemplate, study and reflect upon the meaning and the importance of art.

And photographing and being photographed with art people find enjoyable. They find having a good time in those places enjoyable as well.

I don't believe saving art for only the group of people who are deemed worthy. Maybe one of those kids who did not seem interested might be inspired later on all because of that experience. Museums are also there so people can experience new things, whether they recognize the value or not. Education is usually part of their mission.
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ripgriffith
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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2012, 12:36:24 PM »
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And photographing and being photographed with art people find enjoyable. They find having a good time in those places enjoyable as well.

And very frequently, as has been pointed out, with little or no concern for anyone else in the gallery or museum.  I frequent The Hermitage, and the situation Mark encountered there is far from unusual.  As far as damage from flash, there seems to be about equal evidence on both sides of that fence; however, one thing is absolutely certain:  the absence of flash is guaranteed not to harm a painting.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2012, 12:46:53 PM »
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As far as damage from flash, there seems to be about equal evidence on both sides of that fence...

No, there is not equal evidence that a camera flash will or will not harm artwork--that is a myth (which is why all these museums do not prohibit flash). However, ambient light can be a significant and some over zealous curators have also banned flash thinking it significant. But opinion is not science.
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John Camp
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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2012, 01:01:35 PM »
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I started another thread at the same time this one was started; it would be good if they could be combined.


And photographing and being photographed with art people find enjoyable. They find having a good time in those places enjoyable as well.

I don't believe saving art for only the group of people who are deemed worthy. Maybe one of those kids who did not seem interested might be inspired later on all because of that experience. Museums are also there so people can experience new things, whether they recognize the value or not. Education is usually part of their mission.

I think this opinion is foolish and probably comes from a lack of museum attendance; or at least a lack of museum attendance where the object is to appreciate art. Nobody says that you shouldn't have a good time in a museum, nobody says that any particular group shouldn't be found worthy, everybody thinks you should go to museums to experience new things, to educate people, etc. This part of your argument is simply inane: you've set up a straw man to refute what nobody says.

The whole point is that these people with their flashes are preventing all of those things. I don't know whether flashes cause damage to the paintings, and if somebody reputable tells me they don't, I'm perfectly willing to believe that. The problem is, with paintings like "Starry Night," and many other famous paintings, you often literally can't see the painting for the flickering flashes. I'm not talking about a situation like the one Mark illustrates where you see somebody at the Louvre taking a shot of "Raft of the Medusa," I'm talking about a constantly renewing circle of twenty people with cell phones blasting away at the painting. You can't see it for the flashes. Most of the people there don't even look at it -- they have their backs to it, so you can see both the painting and their faces while their photo is taken.

No matter how much you'd like it to be, these museums are not Disney World, in which the fun gets better as more people scream and laugh and run about. I also have a problem with tour groups: they're not there for the art -- it's impossible to enjoy it when you're in a group of fifty people in funny hats being hectored by a tour guide -- they're there to get there cultural ticket punched. The Deux Magots, the Louvre, the Galeries Lafayette, and the Louvre is optional.

If museums insist on allowing photography, I think it should be restricted. They could institute "quiet hours." Allow it, say, from 9 a.m. to 10, and from 1 p.m. to 2. Allow tour groups at the same time. At least there'd be a possibility of some blessed peace.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 01:16:35 PM by John Camp » Logged
theguywitha645d
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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2012, 01:19:30 PM »
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The problem is, with paintings like "Starry Night," and many other famous paintings, you often literally can't see the painting for the flickering flashes. I'm not talking about a situation like the one Mark illustrates where you see somebody at the Louvre taking a shot of "Raft of the Medusa," I'm talking about a constantly renewing circle of twenty people with cell phones blasting away at the painting. You can't see it for the flashes. Most of the people there don't even look at it -- they have their backs to it, so you can see both the painting and their faces while their photo is taken.

Speaking of inane. It is hardly the Hollywood press corps turning up.
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Jonathan Cross
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2012, 01:34:24 PM »
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In the time I have been going to Venice, the Frari church has moved from allowing photographs to not allowing any (at least on my last visit last winter).  When allowed to, I did take images without flash, so am sad, but respect the decision that the church has made.  Why is it that so many disregard what is requested in respect of taking photographs, even when there are clear icons showing no photographs or no flash?  In most cases, a better image can be otained by buying a postcard and that would help the building to be maintained for the enjoyment of all.

Jonathan

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cmburns
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« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2012, 01:44:21 PM »
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I agree with the original poster that this comes off as my way of consuming art is better than yours, whining. I've traveled to over 50 countries, went to the top museums in most of them, walked endless gallery halls, gazed for hours, sat on benches and contemplated, etc. as much as anyone. I've also taken pictures all along the way of things that I liked. Usually with museum permission, sometimes without. I have however, never used flash.(it's a helluva lot easier today with low noise high ISO, and silent shutter mode in the 5d3 is legit).

If I were writing this essay I would be bemoaning museums that don't allow me to take a photo. Yes I can maybe in the gift shop buy an overpriced print and then have it destroyed in my luggage by some overzealous security thug. Maybe if I write the name down I can find the work online and purchase it, but I don't really want it in that form. What I'd like is when I think back of a travel destination, to be able to click a few buttons on my computer to that particular days photos and pull up my photo of it. This evokes much better memories for me, and that's largely why I take photos, to help me remember the amazing things I've seen around the world. Often I can look at a photo of a painting and not just remember details in the photo I had forgotten, but details of the museum and beyond. Maybe where I had lunch, the hotel I was staying at, what the weather was like, etc., all from one photo of a painting. On the other hand if I take a picture of the Orsay outside, I may recall in general that the Van Gogh's are up there, and this part had this, but I really won't recall any detail of any photos. For instance the last time I was in the Orsay the only no-photo area was for some pastels, and they were kept in a dimly lit room. I remember almost nothing from that other than what I just wrote.

The Mona Lisa is a special case. It's a cultural icon. It's like getting your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. Sad maybe, but that's how it is. Other than that one painting I've never had too much trouble admiring other works in the Louvre. Yes you have to dodge in between tour groups especially on busy days, but that's life in any tourist location.

To me, the greater loss that is happening is I can't be a tourist and record my travels with my camera, thanks largely to idiots that don't know how to work their equipment. It start with a ban of flash, which as others have shown, is not the open and shut case some say it is. With the flash ban you have people that don't know how to use their cameras still blasting away with flash. Finally the museum just says to hell with it, no photos. Then people still take photos and the museum has to hassle with trying to have security hassle people, and this leaves a bad taste for everyone. One of the most preposterous to me is Michelangelo's statue of David. No photo's allowed. They explained it many years ago as some company had paid for the restoration and had the image rights because of this. They have a surly "guard" posted to stop you, or at least they did the last time I went in 2006. Still I took my photos. The guard couldn't be everywhere at once so as soon as she walked to one side, everyone on the other took photos and vice versa. It's stone, even if I was using flash, which I wasn't, my photons wouldn't hurt it. It's one of the most remarkable things on earth(well top 1,000 for me maybe) but I'm not allowed a photo of it. Yes there's a good copy outside where it used to be, but it's not the same for me. This statue survived for centuries outside with pigeons doing their business on it, even a wayward couch tossed from a window taking off an arm, but now, you are not allowed to take it's picture. Insanity.

There's also a growing trend among smaller, 2nd or 3rd tier museums to not allow photography. Just in general, this is often the case because they really don't have much to offer, and when the photos wind up on a Trip Advisor type site business drops off. I personally often don't go to places that don't allow photography. There has to be something pretty damn amazing and one of a kind to get me in that kind of place.

On the other hand, the onslaught of camera equipped cell phones has meant some places have given up trying to ban photography. Thankfully.

Solutions? I've often wondered why most major museums, historical sites, etc. don't have a weekly photographer friendly outside normal hours tour. No flash if you like, but allow tripods. Keep the group together so you don't have to have full museum security staff on duty, 15 minutes in this galley, then so long here, etc., and why not also do the same for those that would like to see the work in a bit more privacy. A special tour, costs a little extra, but you have the museum to yourself, or nearly to yourself.


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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2012, 01:52:00 PM »
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And photographing and being photographed with art people find enjoyable. They find having a good time in those places enjoyable as well...

I am sure there are many people who would be having good time in those places by masturbating as well. Quite enjoyable, no? After all, a lot of good-looking ladies on the walls there, some of them quite naked too.

There is a lot of other, otherwise quite enjoyable activities we do not allow in public, let alone museums.
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2012, 02:12:10 PM »
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... my way of consuming art is better than yours...

Hell, yeah!

There IS right way, proper way, superior way, civilized way of doing anything, let alone consuming arts. And that way is surely better than uncivilized way.

It is a sad state of masstardization of everything. Lets bring unwashed masses to museums, let them run around, bring a picnic basket, frisbee and beach ball*... in the name of "democratization of arts."

Come to think of it, you actually used the right term: "consuming art." Those people are indeed consuming it, just like they chug a beer, gulp a burger, toss a napkin... quickly, without thinking, without even looking at it.

* EDIT: Sorry, forgot to add boom box
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« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2012, 02:54:44 PM »
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Okay I have no idea if flash photography damages paintings.  I do agree that badly brought up children and adults in any public space destroy one's enjoyment of that space and the objects it contains.  At the risk of sounding like a Victor Meldrew character (aka English eccentric railing against the world) I deplore the lack of manners amongst adults and the absurdly rude behaviour of children with their doting adults looking on.

I have been to both the Louvre and the Hermitage in the last two years.  I have also been to Disneyland Paris with my nieces children.  All three are horrendous IMO.  Perhaps the august museums housing these iconic works of art should have two sections.  One containing numerous replicas in a variety of frames and backgrounds with some suitably odd photographic props and one containing the real thing which can only be viewed by people over 25 without a camera and in small batches rather like the Gold Room at the Hermitage.

Personally I think so-called "iconic" paintings like the ML are over-hyped and I get much more pleasure wandering around the Guggenheim in Venice which is marvellously free of children (big and small), photographers and dare I say it art snobs.
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David Watson ARPS
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« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2012, 03:03:12 PM »
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Hell, yeah!

There IS right way, proper way, superior way, civilized way of doing anything, let alone consuming arts. And that way is surely better than uncivilized way.

It is a sad state of masstardization of everything. Lets bring unwashed masses to museums, let them run around, bring a picnic basket, frisbee and beach ball... in the name of "democratization of arts."

Come to think of it, you actually used the right term: "consuming art." Those people are indeed consuming it, just like they chug a beer, gulp a burger, toss a napkin... quickly, without thinking, without even looking at it.

+1
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Rob C
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« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2012, 03:05:47 PM »
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When I was a delightful brat of sixteen, I’d go to art galleries and museums because I wanted to. I would spend much of my tiny pocket money on postcards of Impressionist paintings and get home as fast as I could, pull out the paints and try to make my own versions. Years earlier, I’d be taken to such places by my mother who was very well-read on these ’arty’ things and equally enthusiastic that I learn.

Museums tended to be relatively quiet, but there was a war going on. I believe one never knew if one would return home, but what a place to go!

Museums and galleries spend a helluva lot of money, both their own and that of generous donors and also local councils; they have a responsibility. That responsibility is at least two-fold: offer cultural opportunities to citizens; provide preservation and care for future generations to enjoy what they, the museums/galleries hold in trust.

To do both demands discipline; it does not mean a free-for-all and neither does it mean so much security that nobody gets to see anything: private collections already offer that option and no, keep friggin’ out or get shot. Quite rightly so.

In order to offer the public the real experience of art, respect has to be maintained and insisted upon. People rushing about with cameras have nothing to do with art; they couldn’t care less. Keep them out. Bleats for the protection of camera toters is nothing but further noise from the liberal tendency that sees anything that smacks of ‘no, you can’t do that,’ as being authoritarian and fascist. It’s the same psychology that tolerates kids hanging around street corners wearing hoods. It’s bullshit. Being taught that you can’t do every damned thing that you feel like doing is the very first step in growing up; but we all know where modern parenting has taken us. Christ, we hardly even have families today.

Thank God I’m old.

Rob C
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David Watson
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« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2012, 03:24:29 PM »
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When I was a delightful brat of sixteen, I’d go to art galleries and museums because I wanted to. I would spend much of my tiny pocket money on postcards of Impressionist paintings and get home as fast as I could, pull out the paints and try to make my own versions. Years earlier, I’d be taken to such places by my mother who was very well-read on these ’arty’ things and equally enthusiastic that I learn.

Museums tended to be relatively quiet, but there was a war going on. I believe one never knew if one would return home, but what a place to go!

Museums and galleries spend a helluva lot of money, both their own and that of generous donors and also local councils; they have a responsibility. That responsibility is at least two-fold: offer cultural opportunities to citizens; provide preservation and care for future generations to enjoy what they, the museums/galleries hold in trust.

To do both demands discipline; it does not mean a free-for-all and neither does it mean so much security that nobody gets to see anything: private collections already offer that option and no, keep friggin’ out or get shot. Quite rightly so.

In order to offer the public the real experience of art, respect has to be maintained and insisted upon. People rushing about with cameras have nothing to do with art; they couldn’t care less. Keep them out. Bleats for the protection of camera toters is nothing but further noise from the liberal tendency that sees anything that smacks of ‘no, you can’t do that,’ as being authoritarian and fascist. It’s the same psychology that tolerates kids hanging around street corners wearing hoods. It’s bullshit. Being taught that you can’t do every damned thing that you feel like doing is the very first step in growing up; but we all know where modern parenting has taken us. Christ, we hardly even have families today.

Thank God I’m old.

Rob C


Absolutely spot on but then I am growing old too. 

PS why wasn't I born Chinese after all age should be venerated!
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« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2012, 05:21:33 PM »
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I see we have two threads on the same subject.  Perhaps one of the moderators can collapse these into one.  The biggest impediment to enjoying art galleries is not cameras or children but the large crowds that are there making it difficult to get a good viewing position.  We went to the Uffizi in Florence on our trip there in May and that gallery does "try" to manage attendance by limiting the number of tickets per hour that are issued.  Even with this the museum was crowded and there were a couple of school tours there that day as well.  There is a No Camera policy in effect and the museum staff enforce this.  Our cousin's partner in Rome is an art historian and teaches at the Temple University campus there.  He leads tours and is able to get preferred viewing hours at various museums in Italy.  Unfortunately for us he was leading a study tour from the Metropolitan Museum of Art during our stay. Angry  Two years ago our cousin's parents were over for a visit and they were able to tour the Uffizi on Monday when the museum is closed to the general public.  Now that's the way to see things!
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