Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Life + 343 years

Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) was perhaps the greatest landscape painter - ever. There is currently a fabulous exhibition of his works at the Metropolitan in New York. There is a prominent “no photography” sign. I saw a security guard stop someone who tried to take a picture. The Met normally allows photography just about everywhere, provided that no flash is used - which is sensible both for preservation and politeness reasons.

So - I asked the security guard why the policy was different here. “Because of copyright”, he explained. We had a good chat about this - he was a very bright young man. He explained that the pictures were mostly on loan - and that was why this situation was different. So - I presume that this was a condition imposed by contract from the lenders. That would be within the lenders rights, though the purpose would seem unclear. If so, I would wonder why the Met would agree to the condition.

The management had apparently explained it to him as a matter of copyright.

Call it “respect for copyright” or perhaps creeping term extension. In this case, life plus 343 years.


1 comment:

  1. As a person who worked as a preparator in a museum for a few years, there are a lot of reasons why museums in particular dislike photography. First and foremost is the flash, as you've mentioned, which can produce candle levels several orders of magnitude higher than is needed to damage some paper fibres.

    Also, some work is VEHEMENTLY defended under legitimate copyright. The prime example of this being Roy Lichtenstein, who's estate has been real paranoid about copyright. This is coming from a man who "copied" (see link at the end of my comment, I know he's not a plagiarist ) his works. What was even more sad was that we had a 12-foot-long tall version of the pointing finger (http://www.tfaoi.com/cm/2cm/2cm648.jpg) that we had to destroy instead of allowing one of the student helpers to take home as an awesome dorm room decoration.

    The third case is that some lenders simply do not like people taking pictures of the work they own, for whatever reason. It is their right to forge terms for the art they own, and that's just the long and short of it. Some people are fools about it, and therefore we'll never be able to take pictures of their belongings.

    What this sounds like though is a case of a slightly misinformed gaurd, as you've mentioned. Any chance of a follow-up to determine why photography isn't allowed on this collection?