In Brief

Rijksmuseum Asks Visitors to Stop Taking Photos and Start Sketching the Art

A "no cameras" banner on the exterior of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum)
A “no cameras” banner on the exterior of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum)

Earlier this year, museums the world over started banning selfie sticks from their hallowed halls. It was an effort to avoid overcrowding galleries with unwieldy “wands of narcissism,” as they’re often called, and to get visitors to look at art instead of at their own faces in their smartphone screens. Now, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum is taking the anti-smartphone sentiment one step further. A banner featuring a giant cartoon of a camera with a red X through it hangs on the museum’s façade.

The bold graphic is part of the museum’s new #hierteekenen (or “Start Drawing“) campaign, which encourages visitors to slow down and sketch the works they see in the galleries instead of photographing them and moving on to the next thing. The museum is providing visitors with free sketch paper and pencils, as well as hosting drawing classes on Saturdays. While the institution hasn’t explicitly banned cameras or cell phones, it’s made its stance on visitors’ photo-snapping clear.

“In our busy lives we don’t always realize how beautiful something can be,” Wim Pijbes, the museum’s general director, said in a statement. “We forget how to look really closely. Drawing helps because you see more when you draw.” Research has backed up these claims — a recent study found that people were less likely to remember an artwork in a museum if they photographed it. “This is why the Rijksmuseum wants to help visitors discover and appreciate the beauty of art and history through drawing, so #startdrawing!” the museum wrote. (Nothing like a catchy hashtag to convince people to get off social media.)

The museum reassures the artistically challenged that their amateur sketches aren’t meant to replace cell phone photos. “You don’t even have to be able to draw because this is not about the final result but rather about looking at what you want to draw,” the museum said on its YouTube channel. “When you do this, you begin to see things you never noticed before. You see proportions, details, lines … you get closer to the artist’s secret…. Just think of this as being ‘all about the journey, not the destination.”

The campaign is a creative approach to combatting the plague of the so-called #ArtSelfie, one that gives habitual shutterbugs something to do instead of taking photos. The campaign launched in late October to coincide with the international drawing festival The Big Draw.

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