Problems With Art Galleries That No One Talks About (Take Photos All The Time)

Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell, about an artist blogger you know so well.
It started way back in history, with a museum, a guard, and NYC – you see?

And that dear readers, is how you make a transitional joke from one post into the next one. Please see previous post for reference if you want to get the joke, but I’m going to move along so that I don’t lose this post’s momentum.

Let’s visualize for a moment here.

This is a situation that seems to happen all the time across the world in various museums and art galleries alike. You are seeing a-one-of-kind piece of history for the first time (often a famous art-work) and you want to take a photo of it for posterity and so that you can remember what you saw when you return home. Let’s be honest here, you’re done have an eidetic memory and you definitely aren’t getting any younger.

So you snap a photo.

Kinda like I did when I was visiting the New York Metropolitan Museum for the first time back in 2006. Yes, this story is 10 years old, and for you recent graduates and Millennials on the edge of the age generation cut off, that time probably doesn’t mean much to you.

But for the sake of the story let’s pretend you all do understand me. So you snap a photo with your digital camera (not your phone), and get the warm and fuzzies almost immediately, because you now have proof that you’ve been in the presence of greatness, and your loved ones can be excited or feign excitement when they see you again, and you both show and tell.

And this was definitely part of my intent, but not the whole plan. The whole plan was to get some photos, so I could reference them in my own art later on, and because folio pictures from art books aren’t always the best quality. And at as much as 100 bucks a pop, the costs add up quickly.

But then I felt it, a warm hand on my left shoulder. Ever so slowly followed by a deep voice. “You can’t take photos in here son, read the sign.”

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I had read the sign, I saw the sign, and it told me that these works were over a hundred years old and in a dark room to preserve their colour. And I thought I was being clever, because I know all about lightfastness in painting, and I made sure to turn my flash off on my camera (not my phone), because I was being respectful.

It didn’t matter though, I had been caught.

And the guilt quickly set in. But why should I feel this way, it was 2006 and people love to take photos, in fact, digital cameras were making it easier by the day for people everywhere to get into the photography hobby. So all I have are a couple of blurry memories of one room, and I can barely remember which artists I saw in there, so that sucks.

Luckily for us today though, because museums and galleries are loosening the reins on this particular restriction. Because people take photos everywhere, of anything, and all the time. We can thank smart phones for that phenomenon. It’s really difficult for a venue to justify taking away someones’s phone, because it’s not socially acceptable, and phones can save lives.

And from the perspective of the venue they have to decide if it’s more important to have guards paying attention to visitors touching antiquities or snapping photos. That and the challenge of social media. When organizations use social media to show work going up and down, can they really complain when people are using social media to generate traffic for them? The way we think about communication and conversation is changing, visual communication is becoming hot topic once again.

But of course the biggest challenge is the issue of copyright and fair use. I think that institutions need to protect themselves by asking for permission to take photos of work, but for the layman, taking photos for noncommercial use is a lot more permissible, which may be the first indicators of a culture shift.

As time changes peoples opinions about gender, sexuality, and race, and we become more compassionate, my theory is that we will also become better communicators because we need to and our ideas about images will shift too.

What do you think? Comments? Questions? Please leave some and also subscribe! See you tomorrow with a theory about a rabbit.

Tim!

 

Where The Art Is (The Google Cultural Institute)

You ever watch those movie trailers, posters or commericials which start off by saying “since the dawn of time…”? I find them cheesy too, dear readers. But I want to try it out one time okay?

Since the dawn of time, mankind has created artwork and stored it in precious places. In other words, for what seems like forever.

What’s forever, precious?

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You know, FOR-EV-ER? Eternity? Infinity? Time without end? Even you can comprehend THAT Gollum.

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You don’t believe me, well that’s fine. I love pulling out my art history cap every now and again. Just give me a minute here to get down to business and find some images and links to get this party started.

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This image was one of the first cave painting images I ever saw when I was doing my undergrad, at the time it was considered to be one of the oldest images ever made (approx. 32,000BC – 30,000BC).

According to this article, a new theory has cropped up. Humans having been making art for about 42,000 years, which when taken along with the theory of evolution, means that humans have been making art for even longer than we’ve been thinking about things. Which is amazing to me, because I’ve always considered art to be a language in and of itself.

That means that we need art more then we need literature and speech, it’s something that we all can understand and relate to, no matter what the oral or sign language we subscribe to. And it’s foundational to who we are. That’s right, sign language is not universal to all creeds and ethnicities.

So visual language is something we can all experience and relate to, and one which is not interpreted differently in other communication styles. It’s fascinating, really.

Also, while I haven’t read this academic paper on comics, linguistics and visual language, just yet – I did find an interesting point made pretty much at the start of the paper which helps with my argument.

Many authors of comics have metaphorically compared their writing process to that of language. Jack “King” Kirby, celebrated as one of the most influential artists of mainstream American comics, once commented, “I’ve been writing all along and I’ve been doing it in pictures” (Kirby, 1999). Similarly, Japan’s “God of Comics” Osamu Tezuka stated, “I don’t consider them pictures …In reality I’m not drawing. I’m writing a story with a unique type of symbol” (Schodt, 1983). Recently, in his introduction to McSweeny’s (Issue 13), modern comic artist Chris Ware stated overtly that, “Comics are not a genre, but a developing language.” Furthermore, several comic authors writing about their medium have described the properties of comics like a language. Will Eisner (1985) compared gestures and graphic symbols to a visual vocabulary, a sentiment echoed by Scott McCloud (1993), who also described the properties governing the sequence of panels as its “grammar.” Meanwhile, Mort Walker (1980), the artist of Beetle Bailey, has catalogued the graphic emblems and symbols used in comics in his facetious dictionary, The Lexicon of Comicana.

You see, we need visual art just as much as we need other languages and the fact that so many people discard this skill for themselves, their children, their students, and the younger generation is frightening to me.

I’m generalizing here, which I hate to do, but so often I hear stories from people that made art when they were young, and then gave it up. We cannot seem to find value in learning the right skills needed to draw accurately, and attribute it to an ability which only some humans can possess. That is false and limiting behaviour.

But today’s Wisdom Wednesday resource is going to get you back to your roots, so to speak.

Alright, I have a secret to share with you fine folks today. Well, I wish it was a secret, because this is one of those resources anyone with an internet connection has had access to since 2011 and which I cannot believe hasn’t shown up more often in Facebook newsfeeds, on blog posts, and in cultural events.

The Google Cultural Institute is an amazing achievement in digital curation and one which features artwork from around the world, archival exhibitions, and three-dimensional recreations of world heritage sites.

You can navigate this content through Art Project, Historic Moments, and World Wonders, all from your main navigation menu. What I find especially cool is that you can take virtual tours of over 40 different museums, whenever you want.

The search terms are incredible as well – collection, medium, event, place, person, media type, date. And did I mention the Discover feature? It lets you explore related topics at the push of a button. And of course can share your findings with friends too.

But that’s not the best part. As an artist, this gets me the most excited. You can save your favourite items and create your own gallery.

Now tell me that that is not cool. Ha, I don’t believe you! Tell me what you really think! Leave some comments, share some thoughts, and I’ll catch you tomorrow for something timely.

Tim!