Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dear ICA, Please Let Bloggers Photograph Art

Yesterday I made a visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston with some friends. It was a sparkling day, breezy with a bright sun and lovely blue sky full of wispy clouds. The ICA looked magnificent perched on the edge of the sea in its award-winning Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed building. On this day it was nestled behind the minarets and turrets of the yellow and blue Cirque du Soleil tents set up in the ICA's parking lot.

The building makes a stunning addition to the Boston waterfront and views of the sea are visible throughout the building or, as the ICA's website more poetically describes it, "The design weaves together interior and exterior space, producing shifting perspectives of the waterfront throughout the museum's galleries and public spaces."

On the sea-side of the building, an 80-foot cantilever extends out over steps that provide a public space for seating, water gazing and people watching.

Cantilever and steps

View from steps

We were there to see the Charles LeDray exhibition "workworkworkworkwork," a traveling show that remains at the ICA through October 17 and then goes to The Whitney Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

The Admissions desk was kind enough to honor our blogger credentials but unable to provide press kits. All seemed to be going well until we hit the dreaded sign posted in front of the elevator announcing that photography is prohibited.

The sign announces that this policy exists to "protect the art" from photography along with other damaging practices such as touching the art, getting food and drink on the art and banging into the art with large bags. However, the only harm that my little digital camera could possibly do to the art (unless I happened to stumble into something while holding the camera in front of my face) is with a flash. I have the option of turning the flash off. Use of the non-flash mode is permitted in most museums. Why doesn't the ICA allow it? Could it be because they want to control images of the art? I think that they should rethink this unfriendly policy. It seems to me that bloggers posting images of the art and discussing it would draw people to the museum to see the show and this would promote attendance. Isn't this the museum's goal? It is unpaid advertising. This no photography policy is antiquated and anti-internet. ICA - CHANGE YOUR POLICY!

If you don't, here is what you get:


First we looked at the art. If you want to see any of Charles LeDray's work, here's the website for Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York which represents Charles LeDray. Also here is a link to an essay about Charles LeDray and "workworkworkworkwork" by Jerry Saltz, originally published in Arts Magazine, April 1992. We also looked at the other exhibitions: Dr. Lakra, Francesca Dimattio: Banquet and a range of works from the ICA collection.

Now on to something I can photograph:

An excursion boat to the Boston harbor islands approaches. I am viewing it from behind the glass wall of a gallery that stretches the entire width of the building. It's called the "John Hancock Founders Gallery."

Boat getting closer

Boat disappearing behind Anthony's Pier 4 Restaurant next door to the ICA.

Ladies room with walls painted a lovely shade of radiant turquoise blue (very similar to the color I have in my living room)

Faucets in ladies room. They even have automatic soap-dispensing faucets where you stick your hand under and foamy soap comes out all on its own.

Oops! I forgot to take photos of the lovely lunch we had. I chose the naan of the day, sort of an Indian pizza, with a naan bread topped with shrimp, mozzarella cheese, chopped tomatoes, Kalamata olive tapenade and balsamic vinegar. Very tasty. We ate outdoors and it was even a little chilly with the wind off the water.

This is sort of a computer lab with rows of computers, desks and chairs lining steps down to a window that frames a view of the water. This whole room is suspended from the cantilever. If you look back at the photo of the cantilever, you will see a kind of slanted box attached. That is this room. Its official name is the Poss Family Mediatheque.

Here is the big TV where the ICA screens videos about the exhibitions. There is also a reading area with publications about the exhibitions.

Looking down the elevator shaft.

The ICA has a wonderful room-size glass elevator that we immediately sized up as being as big as a New York apartment. Not only the walls of the elevator are glass, but the walls of the elevator shaft are glass on both sides. This was a great treat to watch.

Elevator rising. The people in the bottom of the photo are in the elevator car.

Elevator continuing to rise

Elevator almost at our floor

Then we took the elevator down ourselves.

Leaving the 4th floor

Going further down. Note the sea view visible.

Just about on the ground floor.

And of course we had to exit through the gift shop.

Gift shop 1

Gift shop 2

Gift shop 3

It was a great visit, made even better by chatting amongst ourselves and to the guards who were very friendly and informative. It would only have been better if photos were permitted and I could have written about the art instead of the ladies room faucets and other such fascinating items.

Addendum: My friend Pam Farrell sent me a link to a post on Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog on the topic of photography in museums by bloggers. Alyson and her many commenters have some good ideas on this topic.


Leslie Avon Miller said...

You crack me up! Your point is well made.

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

This was hysterical! Thanks for the laugh and the great pictures-

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks, Leslie and Wendy. I'm glad you had a chuckle. I'm hoping that the ICA will read this when it turns up on the Google filter they must have in place. Whether it will do any good?...

Joanne Mattera said...

I laughed my way through the whole post. The bathroom pics and comments are hilarious.

I do understand that institutions don't want the art to be badly photographed, but they might as well try to catch the wind. I just Googled "Charles LeDray" and just about all the images from the show are online.

Anonymous said...

such a great little photomessay, I think the ICA should give you an exhibition. They might like this!

Pamela Farrell said...

here here! A fine point you made. Considering that arts press coverage seems to be disappearing from mainstream media at an alarming pace, and that blogs (which come in many shapes and sizes) are nicely positioned to pick up the conversation, it would seem that a forward-thinking arts institution might welcome the opportunity for some free publicity. (Sorry about the run-on sentence.)
So if it's control of the imagery they want, perhaps blog writers could be embedded, such as the journalists who travel with the military in any of our various wars...
Beautiful pics by the way. Love the faucets. It was quite a day.

Deborah Barlow said...

I'm with you NN. This was a great post!

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks, Joanne. I'll take a Google at Charles's work online. I'm glad you had a laugh.

Anonymous - I'm hoping they make a link to the faucets.

Pam - you make a great point. Perhaps they would embed me in the ladies room?