DIGITAL CAMERA WOES AT MUSEUMS
Digital cameras and cell phones are playing havoc with the "Photos Not Allowed" policy at museums, according to a recent article by Ruth Graham in the New York Sun. Museums typically fret that if their visitors take snapshots of artworks on the walls, important "intellectual property rights" are being violated -- though cynics have long suspected that the museums just want to protect their monopoly on postcards and reproductions. These days, images of any popular art project can usually be found on photo-sharing sites like Flickr.
Now, pushing things one step further, comes the iMoMA Project by Travis and Brady Hammond, which aggregates all the Flickr images taken at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The project has special pages for celebrated MoMA works like Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk and Andy Warhol's Soup Cans, as well as the Yoshio Taniguchi-designed stairwell. Featuring snaps from all angles and under a variety lighting conditions, the project is a veritable phenomenology of the works. Hammond told the Sun that he hopes MoMA will embrace the idea, and feature their project in the museum itself, perhaps as "a little kiosk." How about putting it on www.moma.org? The project would provide a head-spinning mise en abyme on the web!
On the left coast, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been aggressively enforcing its "No Photos" policy in its current "René Magritte and Contemporary Art" blockbuster. According to BoingBoing, a tech blog, LACMA guards are being forced to leap into action whenever a museum visitor takes a cell phone from his or her pocket. (The guards are also required to wear Magrittean bowler hats!) BoingBoing particularly savored the irony of a show that blocks ordinary people from participating in the very proliferation of Magrittean imagery that the show itself celebrates.
As with other attempts to stop the sharing of digital content, any attempt to curtail the circulation of digital images is a fool's errand. As of this posting, dozens of photos of the "Magritte and Contemporary Art" have been posted on Flickr, including numerous snaps of artworks.
How to contribute
iMoMA's flickr group: theMoMAproject(NYC)