Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

NGA relaxes rules

Photo: John Gollings. Source: National Gallery of Australia.

Michaela Boland, ‘NGA relaxes rules so you can get in the frame with Monet’, The Australian, 27 December 2014

One of the last museums to lift its blanket ban on visitor photo­graphy, the National Gallery of Australia is finally ready for its selfie.

From January, the nation’s ­pagoda to paintings and sculpture will play catch-up with the great museums of the world and allow visitors to photograph most ­artworks on display from its 160,000-strong collection.

New director Gerard Vaughan sought approval to drop the ­restriction at his first meeting of the NGA Council in November.

“The NGA found itself out of step not only with the rest of the country, but with the rest of the world,” Dr Vaughan said.

“There are some legal issues around it but … really, with the ­advent of the camera on people’s mobile phones, we’ve moved on.

“I know when I’m at galleries abroad I often take pictures just as an aide-memoire.”

Restrictions have gradually been ­relaxed as Australia’s capital city galleries embrace contempo­rary art — and accepted tourism funding to ­position themselves as visitor ­destinations.

Journalism student Evelyn Lawrence described the NGA’s decision to allow photography of the national collection as smart. “It’s the way people like to document their memories now more than anything else,” she said.

Posting images of experiences on social media for family and friends would expose the gems of the national collection to a wider audience, she said.

At Queensland Art Gallery, before the Gallery of Modern Art’s visually sumptuous Cai Guo-Qiang show last summer, director Chris Saines expressed his hope that visitors would exercise their smartphones and post the outcomes on social media.

When they did, the gallery crowed as much about its social media success as it did about its impressive audience figures.

A National Gallery of ­Victoria spokeswoman said: “We encourage photography wherever we can.

“As long as visitors aren’t using equipment which may be hazardous, (such as) tripods and lighting, photography is also permitted in our collection galleries and most exhibitions, except where lending conditions forbid it. Flash is not permitted for conservation reasons.”

At the Art Gallery of NSW footprints have been discovered on plinths left by people cosying up to statues for selfies, but Dr Vaughan is confident signage and staff education will ease the transition to modernity in the ­national capital.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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