Rules and exceptions: what can be done and what is prohibited in museums

Every time a figure from art, sports, entertainment or politics wants to visit a museum, the institution must put together an operation that includes security measures that protect the famous person from harassment by fans. This is how it happened a few days ago at the Reina Sofía in Madrid when it opened the doors especially for Mick Jagger and his entourage. The National Museum of Fine Arts did the same locally last month when it received actor Robert De Niro, accompanied by his partner and daughter, his castmate Luis Brandoni and a few other guests, on a holiday (1st May) when it was closed to the public.

Unlike Jagger, who posed in front of Picasso’s famous Guernica, although taking photographs is not allowed in that room, De Niro did not take his portrait in front of any work: the few witnesses to the visit were unable to record the moment at the express request of those around them. The only image that circulated was taken at the exit and the famous actor appears with a black chinstrap that almost covers his face. The one from the leader of the Rolling Stones, on the other hand, went viral as soon as the singer posted it on his Twitter account.

But beyond celebrity visits, the question is what can be done in museums as general rules and what happens when someone does not comply with them. In most cases, taking photos without a flash or a tripod is allowed. In the use of selfie stick Not everyone agrees: in the Bellas Artes and in Malba the famous “stick” cannot be used to avoid damage to the works and other visitors; on the other hand, at Fundación Proa they accept it, with the necessary care, of course. Bags, backpacks and large wallets must be stored in the lockers both in the Modern and in the Proa; in Fine Arts it is not necessary, as long as they are used forward.

A typical postcard of the Louvre museum in Paris, with the Gioconda always surrounded by cameras and cell phonesMarkus Schreiber – AP

Drinks and meals are expressly prohibited in all cases, as well as contact with the works: no, no and no. What’s more: there is usually a yellow line on the floor that indicates the limit distance. There are two exceptions: one is that the characteristic of the work (or the sample) invites the viewer to interact. Another is if it is about special visits for the blind or visually impaired, in which the sense of touch rules. In that case, at the Museum of Fine Arts they are given gloves to touch the sculptures (not the paintings) while the guide tells them about the work and the artist.

“The question of not touching is related to the conservation and general care of the work. In the educational field, we work with the concept of promoting an approach from what is possible. With the boys, girls and families, at the Museum of Modern Art we work with pedagogical resources from the Department of Education, which allow us to enrich the experience of what it is possible to do in the museum”, Laila Calantzopoulos, Head of the department, responded to LA NACION. of Education, and Mariana Capurro, Coordinator of Accessibility of the Moderno.

Accessible tour for blind visitors at the Modern Museum
Accessible tour for blind visitors at the Modern MuseumCourtesy Modern Press

“As there is no contemporary art, we did not have the problem that people get confused and believe that the work is an object that can be touched,” said Andrés Duprat, director of the Fine Arts, where there is no special room (like the of Guernica in the Reina Sofía) in which you cannot take photographs. “Of course you can’t touch anything because they are historical works, some of them very fragile. The limit is marked on the floor so that the public does not get too close. We have cameras and 42 security guards, mostly to prevent vandalism or the use of flashes. When the guards see that someone gets too close to a work, they act preventively,” added Duprat.

At Fundación Proa instead of guards there are educators. “Proa was a pioneer in proposing spaces without room guards where the care is in charge of the Education team, prioritizing an experience of exchange and not disciplinary in front of the works”, explained Noemí Aira, from the Department of Education. “Contemporary art often challenges the viewer’s experience in the museum with its materials and room layouts with questions such as ‘is this a work?’ ‘you can touch?’. In the recent exhibition “Art at play”, the issue of interaction with the works was put ‘at stake’, precisely, ”he added.

Art at Play exhibition in the Proa rooms.  A playful approach to Argentine art.  The exhibition highlights the importance of toys, games, sports and participatory proposals in the inspiration and imagination of Argentine artists.
Art at Play exhibition in the Proa rooms. A playful approach to Argentine art. The exhibition highlights the importance of toys, games, sports and participatory proposals in the inspiration and imagination of Argentine artists.Fabian Marelli – THE NATION

Until 2007, in Malba it was not allowed to take photos. From the emergence of social networks, the museum itself encourages visitors to share them online with the use of hashtags that are visible in the rooms, aware that their personal views also enrich the experience of other visitors and of the museum itself. “Many times it is content that we share on Malba’s Instagram feed and the starting point for new readings about the works,” said Guadalupe Requena, Institutional Director.

In recent weeks, the video of a young woman who recorded her first visit to Malba and was surprised when they told her that she could not touch the works of the Yente-Del Prete exhibition went viral. “There are certain works that, due to their iconicity, challenge visitors more. For example, people always want to take a picture Exclusion, by Pablo Suárez, posing hanging from the train car as the character in the play. In these cases, the role of counselors is key to organizing and mediating in these situations and informing them that it is not possible to touch the work or get so close,” Requena said.

“When we have more participatory projects such as the Yoko Ono or Yayoi Kusama exhibitions, it is natural that visitors transfer this permission to all the exhibitions and the museum must strengthen communication and even have more staff in the room”, added the Institutional Director of Malba, that you cannot forget the reaction of the visitors of the sample of Yoko Ono in front of the telephone installed in one of the rooms. Many raised the tube and dialed or posed. “Look at the instructions: the telephone is to receive calls, not to call”, they insisted to hundreds of visitors determined to pick up the tube even if it didn’t ring.