One of New York’s Most Conservative Museums Now Permits Photography

The Frick Collection (photo by Flickr user t-mizo)
The Frick Collection (photo by Flickr user t-mizo)

Add the Frick Collection, one of New York City’s oldest and most staid museums, to the list of art institutions that have begun allowing visitors to take photographs in their permanent-collection galleries. Following on the heels of MoMA PS1 last fall, and many more museums across the country in the past few years, the Frick has amended its visitor photography policy.

The changed happened without word or fanfare, only coming to our attention thanks to a tweet this past weekend. In fact, the museum tells Hyperallergic that the new policy went into effect much earlier this month, on April 9. (The museum has not yet offered comment regarding the reasoning behind the decision.)

But it’s not all that surprising. Most museums are moving in the direction of allowing photography for noncommercial purposes, as it clearly boosts visitor engagement and enthusiasm. “You are fighting an uphill battle if you restrict,” Nina Simon, director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History told ARTNews last spring. “Even in the most locked-down spaces, people will still take pictures and you’ll still find a million of these images online. So why not support it in an open way that’s constructive and embraces the public?” A study tracking Americans cultural participation, released yesterday by the marketing firm LaPlaca Cohen, found that 66% of people using mobile devices at cultural events are taking photos, and 47% are sharing them.

With new photo policies come other issues, though, including the question of how to make sure the picture takers don’t distract or detract from everyone else’s art-viewing experience. The Frick’s website encourages visitors to remember their manners: “When taking photographs, please be courteous to other museum visitors by not blocking their views of artworks or impeding their movement through the galleries.” Pleas like these haven’t yet proven very effective, but maybe as photography in museums becomes less and less of an anomaly, we can shift our energy to figuring out how to do it right.

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