Photographing In Museums Is Not A Crime, Nor Even a Misdemeanor

Warhol DRM
Warhol DRM at the MCA

About time museums figured this out

Deborah Solomon writes:

Nonetheless, the vogue for digital photography is a constructive development that, for the most part, enhances our experience of art. First, there is the eye factor. A visitor who photographs van Gogh’s “Starry Night” echoes, however wanly or casually, the basic mission of visual art: to celebrate the act of looking. When you gaze through a lens, you are likely to consider the world more deeply. You frame space and take note of composition, the curve of a line, the play of light and shadow. As the photographer Dorothea Lange noted, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

As an aid to art education, smartphone cameras are preferable to older devices. Consider Acoustiguides, which offer a blizzard of facts in the place of soulful communication and create a buzzing sound in the galleries that can cause you to wonder, “Am I hearing voices?”

Unlike Acoustiguides, photographs go home with you and offer long-term benefits. For art-history students, iPhone photographs are an earnest reference aid, a crystalline substitute for hard-to-decipher notes.

For everyone else, digital photographs work in much the same way as art postcards did in their heyday a half-century ago when museum gift shops devoted more display space to them. On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art, I admired a plastic handbag in the gift shop, peeked at the price — $595, an Issey Miyake! — and ached for the humble Picasso postcards of my childhood.

Astoundingly, there are still a handful of museums that prohibit photography altogether.


(click here to continue reading Hey ‘Starry Night,’ Say ‘Cheese!’ –

Violence Inherent in the System
Violence Inherent in the System

Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg
Flavin tunnel with Marty Spellerberg at the MCA

Speaking for myself, I like to take photographs of paintings and other museum pieces occasionally, to study the art at my leisure, or otherwise use the photograph as a memory guide. I try to be respectful of other patrons, and of course, not use flash – which some have plausibly asserted will damage an artwork over time. Some museums are simply unfriendly to photographers however, and treat patrons as criminals or vandals in need of a stern lecture.

Ms. Solomon continues:

Museums have lately begun to rethink loan contracts and to encourage lenders to be less possessive with their artwork. “In the past year we have been making strides to loosen our policy,” Maxwell L. Anderson, the director of the Dallas Museum of Art, noted in an e-mail. “We now routinely attempt to negotiate with all of our lenders to allow photography of their works while on display in the galleries. We have included that express permission in our own loan letters and contracts.” The change, he notes, should put an end to confrontations between guards and visitors. “It is far more important for our gallery attendants to focus on the safety of the works of art and our visitors than to have to constantly admonish our visitors, ‘No photographs!’ ”

As subtle as that point may seem, the new loan arrangements represent a sea change. Or rather a see change. We are at the tipping point where art museums are poised to become copying centers whose every single artwork can be reproduced in digital form a million times every day.

I say hooray. When we photograph, e-mail, tweet and Instagram paintings, we capitalize on technological innovation to expand familiarity with an ancient form. So, too, we increase the visual literacy of this country. Much can be gained. Nothing can be lost. A photograph of a painting can no more destroy a masterpiece than it can create one.


Max Ernst - Spanish Physician
Max Ernst – Spanish Physician

Madonna of the Splinter - Vatican Museum, 1993
Madonna of the Splinter – Vatican Museum, 1993

Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)
Looking At Lolita (Sue Lyon)

Exhibition of invisible art

Homage to Robert Rauschenberg Redux
Homage to Robert Rauschenberg Redux


  Inevitable jokes aside, this sounds interesting. I’d go if I could.

London’s Hayward Gallery will gather together 50 ”invisible” works by leading figures such as Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Yoko Ono for its display of works you cannot actually see. It is thought to be the first such exhibition staged at a major institution in the UK. Gallery bosses say the £8 a head exhibition demonstrates how art is about ”firing the imagination”, rather than simply viewing objects.

Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 – 2012 opens on June 12 and includes an empty plinth, a canvas of invisible ink and an unseen labyrinth. It includes work and documents from French artist Klein who pioneered invisible works in the late 1950s with his concept of the ”architecture of air”.

Also in the exhibition will be Warhol’s work Invisible Sculpture – dating from 1985 – which consists of an empty plinth, on which he had once briefly stepped, one of many explorations of the nature of celebrity.

(click here to continue reading Empty plinth and blank piece of paper to feature in exhibition of invisible art – Telegraph.)

John Cage 4 33
John Cage 4’33”.PNG

I assume someone will play John Cage’s famous piece, 4’33″

4′33″ (pronounced “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”) is a three-movement composition by American experimental composer John Cage (1912–1992). It was composed in 1952 for any instrument (or combination of instruments), and the score instructs the performer not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements (which, for the first performance, were divided into thirty seconds for the first, two minutes and twenty-three seconds for the second, and one minute and forty seconds for the third). The piece purports to consist of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence”

or some of his precursors:

Cage was not the first composer to conceive of a piece consisting solely of silence. Precedents and prior examples include:

  • Alphonse Allais’s 1897 Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, consisting of nine blank measures. Allais’s composition is arguably closer in spirit to Cage’s work; Allais was an associate of Erik Satie, and given Cage’s profound admiration for Satie, the possibility that Cage was inspired by the Funeral March is tempting. However, according to Cage himself, he was unaware of Allais’s composition at the time (though he had heard of a nineteenth century book that was completely blank). 
  • Erwin Schulhoff’s 1919 “In futurum”, a movement from the Fünf Pittoresken for piano. The Czech composer’s meticulously notated composition is made up entirely of rests. 
  • In Harold Acton’s 1928 book Cornelium a musician conducts “performances consisting largely of silence”. 
  • Yves Klein’s 1949 Monotone-Silence Symphony (informally The Monotone Symphony, conceived 1947–1948), an orchestral forty minute piece whose second and last movement is a twenty minute silence (the first movement being an unvarying twenty minute drone).

Henri Matisse – Black Is Also a Color

I still haven’t been to the Matisse exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, unfortunately. Such a powerful artist.

In 1908, when Henri Matisse exhibited in Paris thirty paintings, sculptures and drawings representing his work of the previous eight years, a disgruntled critic complained of the artist’s “unhealthy state of mind, overworked by search and ambition.” If only he’d realized what was coming. Just three years earlier Matisse had burst into notoriety as the most radical of the Fauves, or “wild beasts,” of painting; the 1908 exhibition showed that the 38-year-old artist was ready to take stock of his work without false modesty, the better to push forward into new terrain. His sense of accomplishment and his restlessness could hardly be disentangled. “I do not repudiate any of my paintings,” Matisse declared in his “Notes of a Painter,” published a few months later, “but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo.”

Where most observers saw madness and aggression in Matisse’s work, his one great early defender among the critics, Guillaume Apollinaire, saw a “Cartesian master.” “We are not here in the presence of an extravagant or extremist undertaking,” Apollinaire argued. “Matisse’s art is eminently reasonable.” The poet was being sly, knowing as he did that to be reasonable, or rather to put one’s reason into practice, can be a most extreme undertaking. And Matisse was just as crafty when he claimed, in implicit contradiction to Apollinaire, to disdain intellect as a guide to painting: “I believe only in Instinct.” True, Matisse is the most intuitive of painters, yet to express his instinct cost him immense intellectual as well as physical labor. “Often behind one of these works,” he explained to a Catalan journalist, “a dozen more have been undergoing evolution, or, if you wish, involution, from objective vision to the sensationalist idea that engendered it.” Matisse’s insight, if it has been precisely transcribed, is extraordinary. It would have been more conventional to assume that art begins with sensation and is gradually elaborated to construct an “objective vision.” But Matissean vision is just the opposite, moving from objectivity to sensation, or rather (and here comes a curious oxymoron) to a “sensationalist idea,” apparently a sort of intellectualized sensation. It’s as if, in Blakean terms, one were to start from experience to achieve innocence.

Matisse’s paintings can appear to have taken form effortlessly. Their timelessness is akin to that of the icons that stunned the painter when he visited Russia in 1911—”the true source of all creative search,” he declared. Of course, the frank evidence of multiple revisions observable on the surfaces of most of them tells us that this sense of ease is deceptive. Readers of Hilary Spurling’s biography of the painter can easily come away from it thinking of the artist as an absolute kvetch: high-strung and anxious, a reckless workaholic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Of the 1906 painting The Gypsy, he later observed that it “shows the energy of a drowning man whose pathetic cries for help are uttered in a fine voice,” while the mural Music (1910) he described as “an immense effort which has exhausted me.” Of the glorious 1912 still life Basket of Oranges, later purchased by Picasso and now on view in Chicago, he told Françoise Gilot, “It was born of misery.” When a painting happened to achieve an unexpected success he took little pleasure in it, seeing the work as just “the beginning of a very painful effort.” A confirmed atheist—except “when I work”—he would use the Lord’s Prayer as a mantra to calm himself down. And yet as his friend the writer and socialist politician Marcel Sembat observed, “He has no wish to offer other people anything other than calm.”

(click to continue reading Black Is Also a Color | The Nation.)


And from the AIC:

Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 examines what is without question the most innovative, momentous, and yet little-studied time in the artist’s long career. Nearly 120 of his most ambitious and experimental paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the period are on view. Matisse himself acknowledged the significance of these years when he identified two paintings, Bathers by a River and The Moroccans, as among his most pivotal. These monumental canvases from the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, inspired the collaborative work of this exhibition and serve as major touchstones within it. This is the first exhibition to offer an in-depth investigation of Matisse’s art from this time, revealing information uncovered through extensive new art-historical, archival, and technical research.

(click to continue reading Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 | The Art Institute of Chicago.)

Reading Around on November 10th

Some additional reading November 10th from 12:11 to 20:55:

  • Autograph seeking: Why do people do this, anyway? — – What does a person actually do with an autograph once he has it?

    Frame it? Look, the same thing so-and-so writes in the checkout line at Target is on my wall, where a painting or a photo might be!

    Fondle it? Oh, that downward stroke is so sensual, like we would be together if only we had the chance.

    Tuck it away in hopes of someday selling it to one of the folks who would frame or fondle it? That may be as realistic as any answer, but it’s pretty cynical.

    I absolutely do not get autographs, especially in the broader sense of the term. Seeing them sought and signed strikes me as one of the most absurd rituals we have, a time waster on the magnitude of airport security or “The Price Is Right.”

  • Matthew Weiner Talks Mad Men Finale. An Update On His Film You Are Here. Plus, an Essay on Season Three | /Film – “I’ve read PG-13 fan discussions pertaining to whether Don and Peggy would ever bang. As Weiner states, it’s more of a brother-sister relationship, though one couldn’t help notice the similarities between Don promising to “spend the rest of my life trying to hire you,” and Henry Francis forever offering Betty everything she ever wanted in life. When Don tells Peggy, after visiting her at her semi-new apartment, that he doesn’t know if he can make it without her, the similarity to Henry’s line about eternity is obvious. If Draper really cared about saving his marriage, this is the type of selfless confession he’d have to make to Betty. Whether she would accept it (probably not) is beside the point.”
  • The Footnotes of Mad Men. – When they showed the shot of a Farmer Whitman arguing with the farm co-operative it looked like it could transposed over the 1885 Potato Eaters painting by Van Gogh.

Wine as an Ingredient in Art

Just not quite in the way you might have thought. Sign me up! Sounds fun…

Ode to Dionysus

Artists over the centuries have chosen all sorts of seemingly unusual things with which to create their art, from ground-up roots, soils and foods to blood and even urine, as Andy Warhol so infamously proved.

For Matthew Lew, the chosen medium is wine. And his reason for taking the unexpected step is identical to that given by many when asked why they love drinking wine: its terroir.

Terroir is the French word for soil, but it means so much more than that. Terroir is a uniqueness rooted in a sense of a place. That’s important to Lew, who began a few years ago to use wines made around the world to link his work with specific geographical areas.

“It gives a different essence to the piece,” the Chicago artist explained.

A just completed painting, a Tuscan landscape, used two Italian wines, a 2005 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva, and a sparkling non-vintage Canella Prosecco di Conegliano.

His works are colorful, contemporary, expressive and often bold. Themes range from Buddhas and cityscapes to elegant abstracts. Sometimes, he’ll mix in a client’s favorite wine to give a commissioned piece a special significance.

[Click to read more: From wine glass to canvas, painter explores the visual meaning of terroir — Bill Daley at the]

Mr. Lew mixes wine directly into his acrylics, with a bit of randomness as a result. Richer colors sometimes but there isn’t a strict formula.

I just wish I had space to have a permanent painting studio in my apartment: I’d throw a splash of this Ercavio Tempranillo Roble 2006 I’m sipping directly onto my palette just for fun. Frequently, the best art is a result of happy experiments and chance.

Edvard Munch at the AIC

Have been meaning to make it to this show, have the flyer right here on my desk in fact.

[Evard Much – Kiss By the Window, 1892]

It’s true that the artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a hopeless alcoholic who checked himself in and out of various sanatoriums, a Norwegian Lothario who never married and was shot in the left hand by Tulla Larsen, one of his mistresses, when he attempted to end their affair. (Fortunately he painted with his right hand.) But the Art Institute of Chicago’s engrossing exhibition “Becoming Edvard Munch: Influence Anxiety and Myth” (through April 26) rejects the popular notion that his art was a product of his creepiness, a perception that Munch energetically developed himself.

Although Munch is classified with the late 19th-century Symbolist painters whose intense images of inner torment paved the way for 20th-century expressionism, this exhibition demonstrates the broad range of other styles he employed, including naturalism and Impressionism. To be sure, the first major piece in this exhibition, “Self-Portrait With Cigarette” (1895), reinforces the view that Munch was not normal. The artist depicts himself in a Bohemian pose, wreathed in a blue-black haze of cigarette smoke. His face, eyes and hand holding the cigarette are the only luminous points amid swirling shadows. But the show, curated by Jay A. Clarke, surrounds some of Munch’s best work with art of his contemporaries — much of it from the Art Institute’s own rich Impressionist collection and its deep collection of prints and drawings — suggesting that his various themes, motifs and painting styles were only in part contrived to further his reputation as a sick and socially aberrant artist, and were essentially derived from art that he saw and loved.

[From Not All of Edvard Munch’s Art Was a Product of His Creepiness –]

[non-WSJ subscribers use this link]

Evard Munch – Madonna, 1895

Insanely busy though for the next few weeks. The show is up until April, however, and according to something I read, members1 have access to the museum an hour before it opens (i.e., less crowds). Anyone want to go with me?

Members enjoy private viewing of the exhibitions the first hour of every day.

Monday–Friday, 10:30–11:30

Saturday–Sunday, 10:00–11:00

  1. I recently renewed my subscription []

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

“Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? (Documentary)” (Harry Moses)

What a great film1 . An epic culture clash between the mumble-frackers and the regular 18-wheeler-driving Janes (so to speak)

When brash trailer park resident Teri Horton bought a secondhand painting for five bucks, little did she know it could be a genuine Jackson Pollock worth millions. This film documents Horton’s volatile 15-year journey into the heart of the art world’s elitist establishment to have the painting authenticated. The clash between stuffy art dealers and the cussin’, beer-drinkin’ Horton is funny, eye-opening and utterly unforgettable. [From Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?]

Teri Horton, a truck driving, trailer park resident with a stubborn streak is annoyed by the stuffed shirts of the New York art world, and refuses to give up when they tell her the painting she owns is not authentic. To a non-member of the art gallery crowd, her evidence seems solid (for instance, a fingerprint smudged on the back of her canvas that matches a fingerprint found on a paint can in Jackson Pollack’s studio, and on the back of another authentic painting), but the various experts, such as Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, disagree. The film, released in 2006, doesn’t have a happy ending (she refuses the offer of $9,000,000 from a Saudi sheik), but doesn’t have an unhappy ending either.

Ben McGrath, of the New Yorker, wrote a small article on the topic2 recently, which begins:

The art world, we keep hearing, is in a fine mess, awash in money and bereft of direction, and a recent documentary, “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?,” seems to prove the point. In it, a retired truck driver in California named Teri Horton buys what she considers to be an ugly painting as a gag gift for five dollars at a thrift store, is later told that it looks like a Jackson Pollock (the title refers to her initial reaction), and then struggles to convince anyone who matters that it could be the real thing. The film pits old-fashioned art authenticators (Thomas Hoving, the former Met director, runs his fingers over the painting before declaring, “It’s dead on arrival”) against a forensic scientist in Montreal, Peter Paul Biro, who finds what he believes to be Pollock’s paint-stained fingerprints on the back of the canvas. Horton says she has turned down an offer of nine million dollars for the painting from a Saudi collector.

The other day, at Cipriani Dolci, in New York, Kevin Jamison, a graduate student in government and politics at St. John’s, and the co-founder of a fledgling art consultancy, flipped through a copy of Ellen Landau’s “Jackson Pollock,” comparing the reprints in the book with a pair of images stored on his iPhone. These were of paintings he’d bought, for twenty-five dollars apiece, at an antique shop in Norfolk, Virginia, this summer, and they looked, to an untrained eye, like plausible Pollocks, at least in the sense that they were abstract and drippy. “They were under a stack of paintings about this tall,” Jamison, who has a baby face masked by stubble, said, pointing at the tabletop. One is seventeen inches by twenty-one inches, and painted on rice paper, using only white and gray. The other is twenty-six by twenty-six, on canvas, and much more colorful: green, yellow, red, white, and black.

Jamison watched “Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?” upon returning from Virginia, and then set about finding what he hoped could be useful forensic details, which he also showed on his iPhone: a flake of gold paint, visible only under magnification (Pollock used gold spray paint in his studio); rusty vintage staples; and a peculiar screwlike indentation that he found on the left side of the larger painting, which he believes could match a similar mark that he spotted in Pollock’s “One: Number 31, 1950,” at MOMA. (A caveat: referring to the painting’s left side “depends on what someone considers the top or the bottom,” Jamison said. “I’ve been looking at it for a couple of months and hanging it different ways.”)

“As of now, what they’re worth is what I paid for them,” Jamison said. But Peter Paul Biro, the forensic expert, has agreed to examine the paintings in person early next month, and Jamison has also corresponded with Richard Taylor, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon, who examined fractal patterns in some of the contested Herbert Matter Pollocks (two dozen paintings discovered in a Long Island locker) currently on exhibit at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art.

“Jackson Pollock” (Ellen G. Landau)

great fun: essential viewing for anyone at all interested in the art world and/or forensic science.

  1. The film’s title is probably Who the Fuck is Jackson Pollack, but good luck finding a copy that prints the full title, even in our post-Carlin world []
  2. which is why I rented the film, duh. []