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Photographing Museum Visitors Behaving Badly

Photographer Stefan Drashan has captured many instances of visitors violating the most basic tenet of museum etiquette: do not touch the art.

Visitor at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks (all photos courtesy Stefan Drashan)

Photographer Stefan Drashan spends a lot of time at museums. Not just to appreciate the art, but to observe how humans behave. His recently launched website, People Touching Artworks, records the worst of this behavior, in photographs that capture museum visitors poking, feeling, leaning against, and yes, even measuring artworks. I don’t know about you, but I always carry a pocket tape measure when I visit a museum because who knows if the dimensions listed on wall labels are accurate?

Visitor at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks

Draschan’s photographs, funny as they are, drive home a hard truth: that there will always be people who just have to touch the art, regardless of museum signs (and no matter how often we try to shame report on those who end up breaking artworks).

As Drashan simply put it in an email to Hyperallergic, “Every photograph in this series hurt me and was a shock.”

Based in Vienna, Drashan has been combing European museums for these illicit interactions for nearly two years now. He first began with another project that focuses on an act that museums don’t explicitly prohibit but that some may consider indecorous: sleeping in museums. While People Touching Artworks might make you mad, its precedent is strangely soothing. You get a sense of the quiet in these spaces; the plushness of gallery benches; an air of safety not often felt in other public spaces.

Visitor at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Sleeping in Museums

Another project, People Matching Artworks, is simply mesmerizing for Drashan’s acute pairings of museumgoers with the artworks they gaze upon. Some of these photographs capture people who happen to dress like figures in paintings, while others highlight serendipitous connections between the color schemes or patterns of someone’s outfit with a picture’s palette. The encounters are so harmonious, yet Drashan’s subjects seem oblivious to any resemblance between themselves and an artwork. It is their unknowing that makes these photographs particularly alluring.

Visitor at the Musee de l’Orangerie, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks
Visitor at a museum in Berlin, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks
Visitor at the Munich Glyptothek, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks
Visitor at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Touching Artworks
Visitor at the Musee Picasso in Paris, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks
Visitor at the Centre Pompidou, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks
From Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks
Visitor at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Matching Artworks
Visitor at the Centre Pompidou, from Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Sleeping in Museums
From Stefan Drashan’s Tumblr, People Sleeping in Museums
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