when drawing art is outlawed, only outlaws will draw art
Post #287 • May 28, 2004, 7:44 AM • 9 Comments
Peter Goddard for the Toronto Star:
On Saturday, Jason Witalis was happily sketching an ancient head at the Eternal Egypt exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum. It would help him remember what he'd seen, he says. "I get more out of it."
Then a ROM guard came up and stopped him flat.
Busted. The 29-year-old Toronto intern architect was nabbed by the ROM no-sketching police, caught red-handed with his crudely drawn outline of Mentuhotep II, founder of ancient Egypt's Middle Kingdom, in his hot little hand.
A no-sketching-allowed policy is part of "the negotiated contract with the British Museum," Witalis was told.
All 144 pieces in the touring show come from the London museum's enormous collection of Egyptian artefacts, the biggest the side of Cairo.
Why can't he draw at the museum? Nobody refuted Witalis's theory:
"Basically, you [museum] guys just want to be able to move people faster through the museum so you can get more money," he went on. "To me that's a fundamentally wrong approach to running a museum."
The implications were not lost on Goddard:
...forbidding sketches being made at art institutions seems like the height of lunacy. Haven't generations of artists over hundreds of years learned from copying the shape and line from the masterpieces on museum walls?
Yes. I draw in every museum I visit. And God help anyone who tells me I can't. I've gotten physical with a museum guard over this. I know I was just quoting a Buddhist sutra, but this nonsense really ticks me off.
Ever since I was a student in Rome, at the encouragement of my teachers, I've been drawing art in the museums. It's how I figured out what art looks like. It's how I got over the unpleasantness of art history classes, which stank even at RISD, and communed with my ancestors. Drawing art formed me. And over the years it has sometimes happened that some knucklehead working at the museum decided that I've been looking too long, or that I needed some kind of special permission to do anything besides breeze by the art at a clip. These people are toads. And now they're getting armed with vague legal justifications:
At times, a travelling show is decreed a no-sketch zone because of worries of art-theft, says a spokesperson for the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Sketching art puts it at risk of theft? I would love for someone to explain this to me, because I have no idea how.
The AGO has "no problem" with sketches being made of its permanent collection. "But we often have contractual agreements with lenders who do not wish images of their works circulated," she says.
If I were in Toronto, I would get every artist in town I could to go down to the ROM, sit down in the British Museum exhibition, and draw. Call it a Draw-In. The fact that the British Museum is willing to cut off this ancient method of learning for the sake of its intellectual property rights, or whatever this is about, is vile. It is anti-art. It is vandalism against our tradition.
(Via ArtsJournal, the CNN of the art world.)