Brighton beef.

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I’m cross that I was told to stop drawing in a museum. I’ve sent a letter of complaint, and am sharing it here on my blog (oh I know, I’m rolling my eyes at myself) too. There are of course bigger problems in the world. Drawing shouldn’t be a problem.

Dear [name and job title redacted] Brighton Pavilion,

It is with sadness and outrage that I am writing to complain about having been told to stop drawing in the Brighton Pavilion.

I visited the Pavilion on Sunday 5th June 2016, the day after I gave a talk at the University of Sussex about my academic work using drawing and comics as methods in social science. As a researcher, educator, student, and artist I was glad to revisit the Pavilion particularly as I had included mention of it in my earlier research.

During my visit I drew and wrote notes in my A6-size (one quarter of A4) sketchbook. About two thirds of my way round the Pavilion I was approached by a member of staff who told me to stop drawing. This came after I had approached two members of staff, sketchbook in hand, to ask the names of rooms as little written information was available. When I asked why he told me to stop drawing, he said it was because some items in the Pavilion were on loan from the Queen’s collections and, I quote, ‘she doesn’t like people drawing them because of copyright’. If this was an accurate statement of your policy it suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of both the concept of copyright and of the ownership and purposes of the Royal Collections.

At the end of my visit I asked a member of staff in the gift shop if I could see a copy of the Pavilion’s policy on drawing. He directed me to the ticket desk. Of the two members of staff there neither was able to show me a sign or policy in writing, or to tell me where I might find it online. There were signs banning smoking (a legal obligation and good practice for conservation) and photography (a more questionable ban), but no mention of drawing. One member of staff repeated that the reason for a ban related to the copyright of items in the collection, and the other said she thought it was because the corridors were too narrow. The Pavilion was not busy; by standing with a hand-held sketchbook I was not causing an obstruction to other visitors.

Museums and galleries are of course important venues for education and for the arts, especially when combined with the value of drawing as a way of seeing and a way of learning. The Pavilion’s significance to the political and arts history of Britain (and internationally) makes it a wonderful resource. Preventing such learning is an unpleasant divergence from this mission, particularly when done through an unadvertised and selectively-enforced rule.

I ask you to reply to clarify the Pavilion’s policy on drawing. I will share this letter with my professional and creative networks.

Yours,
Lydia Wysocki

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5 thoughts on “Brighton beef.

  1. martist says:

    i don’t think the queen would like this at all. Imagine asking people to erase their feelings, senses and memories so connection to the loaned artwork will not be somehow used by the human body that has made contact. and if we could do this, we might have a world wide revolution. i am sorry to hear that you were asked to turn off your body.

  2. Paul says:

    You are quite right to question this. That is a complete misunderstanding of what copyright is. If museums and galleries want to be seen as having an educational function then drawing should be part of that. How did the artwork in the museums and galleries get there without drawing?

  3. Ian says:

    Every time I go to the Tate, the galleries are stuffed with school parties sitting everywhere and drawing. It’s great to see.

  4. John S. says:

    Go for it, Lydia. Particularly irritating given how nice your drawings were!

  5. […] For context: link to twitter thread. Photo in this blog post is from when I exhibited at LICAF in 2014 (blog post here). I try not to make a habit of sharing letters online, but it happens. […]

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