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Another New York museum has removed its photography ban in galleries. This time the Museum of Arts and Design (aka MAD) is the latest institutions to join the ranks of MoMA and other major art institutions that welcome photography in their galleries, though some restrictions may apply to specific works or exhibitions.

For those of you who may not know, MAD is been growing by leaps and bounds since their relocation to Columbus Circle a few years ago. This year they plan to meet the 500,000 mark in attendance, which would make it the fourth most visited art museum in the city, so this decision has a big impact on the museum going experience for a great deal of visitors

I asked Marisa Bartolucci, MAD’s director of public affairs, about the policy change and why it happened:

In an age of blogs, iPhones, Facebook, and WikiLeaks, MAD realized that we could not control the dissemination of images the way we had in the past. Since we had begun offering detailed information about works in exhibitions via cellphone, we were already encouraging visitors to use their phones in the galleries. So who was to stop them from taking a sneak shot? Well, the guards, of course, but they cannot be eagle-eyed 100 percent of the time. Hence the change in policy.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Some artists and artist estates are very protective of their works, and that is understandable. We all have yet to fully figure out what the bounds of intellectual property and copyright in this digital age, but what is undeniable is that information, and especially visual information, now flows freely like it or not. There is no way to dam it up. People expect access. That said, we do insist that all images personally shot be used ONLY for personal reference. They cannot be published for commercial use.

How do we enforce that? That’s a good question. So far it hasn’t been an issue.

This is great news. Inspired by MAD, I have decided to start a running list of New York museums that allow photography in their galleries. The following museums allow photography:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (link)
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Museum of Arts & Design
  • Rubin Museum of Art (link)

Institutions that Do NOT Allow Photography:

  • The Frick Collection
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • International Center of Photography
  • Neue Galerie
  • New Museum (with the exception of the current Free exhibition)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art

If you know of other institutions that should be added to our growing list, let us know. We’ve keeping a running list that will periodically update here: hyperallergic.com/photopolicy

After I complete the New York list I will expand it to include non-New York institutions.

Full disclosure: I am a volunteer member of MAD’s education sub-committee.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

5 replies on “Museum of Arts & Design Lifts Photo Ban, Will Others Follow?”

  1. I don’t know what the Brooklyn Museum’s official photo policy is, but I do know that when I visited earlier this month, I look dozens of photos and no one blinked an eye. So I assume photography is allowed there. I wish Houston museums would follow suit. Even some commercial galleries here get huffy when I snap photos.

  2. MAD’s statement is very forward-thinking. I would think that by allowing for photography, the museum would get a bump in attendance just because viewers online would have a sneak peek.

  3. I applaud this new more open and rational policy! I do question the no commercial use bit. For works still under copyright the policy is redundant because they’re already protected with the full force of Federal law. For items that are out of copyright and/or in the public domain, such as pieces from the 19th century, I don’t see where the museum has a legal standing to prevent people from using the images however they may wish.

  4. Does the American Association of Museums, National Park Service, American Association of State and Local History have any data on the number and types of museums that are loosening the reins and allowing photography? I recently saw an exhibit of broken concrete, rusty steel and found out it was all contrived–no real artifacts, but no photos allowed.

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