“Marcel Berlins is a lawyer turned journalist. Apart from his two weekly Guardian columns, he is a university law lecturer, reviews crime fiction for the Times and is a frequent broadcaster.”
He is also rather pompous with elitist views on the accessibility of art. His latest comment in today’s Guardian bemoaned New York City’s Musem of Modern Art’s policy of allowing the public to take pictures of the exhibits. How dare they?
“I was being jostled and pushed not by people anxious to get a better view of the art on show in one of the world’s great museums, but by mobile phone owners rudely trying to ensure no one blocked their desired camera angle. They were there not to see and be inspired by artists of genius, but to take snaps to prove they were there.”
As it happens I was visiting the MOMA last week as well and I can’t remember any jostling going on. On the contrary, the members of the public taking pictures did this with a certain awe. Just like Monsieur Berlins I wondered about the museum’s policy of allowing the public to take pictures, but in stark contrast to him I was actually delighted (so was the best girlfriend ever). I even asked one of the delightful attendants and she said the policy in place because the musum is ‘modern’. Good on her. Signore Berlins obviously isn’t. You see, I’m just a middle -class bog standard academic with middle class income, so I can’t afford to have a Seurat hanging in my guest toilet.
I was quite happy to have the chance of taking some well-lit pictures with a proper camera of some outstanding art work. I don’t make it that often to New York and I will now relish the chance of being able to gaze lovingly at my favourite Klees and Feinigers. Marcel nevertheless doesn’t like this, because:
“Photography in museums ought to be banned, but I also have a less drastic solution. Anyone wanting to snap an exhibit ought to be forced to look at it first, for at least a minute. If they don’t, they should be fined for each second of non-inspection. The scheme will, of course, have considerable technological, financial, logistical and manpower implications. But it will be in the cause of art.”
In the cause of art I am actually delighted that MoMa uses photography to make art viral: the more these precious paintings, sculptures and installations can be cherished by an ever expanding pool of viewers (be it on a computer or in a museum) the more art wins. Making musems and their content more accessible to a wider audience (so the plebs can show their pictures to their plebeian friends) will democratise art.
Even our pompous little art critic must cherish that thought. On the other hand, he probably prefers to have the galleries to himself, scratching his chin and possibly muttering into his beard.