Is it OK for museums to ban sketching in exhibitions? - Museums Association

Is it OK for museums to ban sketching in exhibitions?

Vote in the poll and have your say
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) was caught up in a twitterstorm-in-a-teacup last week when Guardian writer Olly Wainwright, who was visiting the museum's latest exhibition, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, posted a picture of a sign that warned exhibition-goers: “No photography or sketching.”

It was then discovered that the V&A has banned sketching in a number of its temporary exhibitions, although visitors are still encouraged to get their pencils out for the museum’s permanent collection.

It’s a decision that has attracted some opprobrium. Twitter user Rob Fiehn wondered whether it was a late April Fools', asking: "How has any artist learnt from past other than through study and facsimile?" In a comment in the Guardian, Wainwright described it as a “draconian rule”, particularly in a museum whose ethos is to celebrate art and design.

According to Wainwright, the V&A says the ban is in place to prevent congestion at crowded shows, and that such conditions are often stipulated as part of the museum’s loan agreements for exhibitions.

A spokeswoman from the V&A said: "The V&A continues to support and encourage sketching in all its seven miles of permanent galleries. There are sometimes conditions relating to loan agreements with lenders to our temporary exhibitions that mean we are not able to allow sketching in these exhibitions, but we work hard to keep those to an absolute minimum.

"Sketching was possible in many of our recent exhibitions, such as Constable, Fabric of India and Shoes: Pleasure and Pain. It is also welcome in the current Paul Strand exhibition."

Is a ban on sketching in exhibitions ever justified, or is this one diktat too far for museum visitors? Vote in our poll and have your say.


This article was amended to clarify that sketching has not been banned in all temporary exhibitions at the V&A, and to include a comment from the museum.

Leave a comment

You must be signed in to post a comment.