The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and Their Crappy No Photography Policy

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Please see important update below.

This is as close as I got to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. I only visited the exterior of their museum because of their crappy anti-photography policy in their museum.

It’s amazing to me that the Art Institute of Chicago (a mere few miles away, with a much better contemporary art collection) allows photography, while the backwards thinking Musuem of Contemporary Art does not. Further, some of the most significant contemporary art museums in the world allow photography including the MOMA in New York City and the SF MOMA in San Francisco.

As much as I would have liked to have visited the Museum of Contemporary Art while visiting Chicago, I am glad that they did not get my admission fee.

It’s terrible when museums like this put photographer unfriendly policies in place to try and sell more of their overpriced postcards and books at their bookstore.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago should change this anti-photographer and unfriendly photography policy.

Update: It would appear that the MCA has changed their no photo policy. In there house rules section they used to include the following verbiage: “Photography/Filming: Photography and filming are not permitted in the galleries, this includes cell phone cameras and video cameras.”

It now appears that this verbiage has been dropped from the current house rules section on their current website. There is also a comment on the post suggesting that they have changed their policy and now allow photography in their galleries. If this is true this would be a wonderful improvement and I look forward to visiting the museum on my next trip to Chicago.

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  1. Ernie Nitka says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Went to the Museum of Art in Austin and MOA in La Jolla – both had no photography rules thruout the museum. I filled out the visitor comment sheet letting them know how displeased I was. I have gotten into the habit of asking beforehand – I’m relatively OK if a visiting exhibit prohibits photos but not happy when the whole place is on lock down.

  2. Ron says:

    Yes, a museum of any kind with a blanket No Photography policy is acting against the very reason for its existence.

    Might I suggest, in addition to online complaints and notes in the Suggestions box that you contact museum management? The main art museum in my city had a no photography policy so I wrote the director with the reasons I thought this was wrong and examples of major museums with photographer-friendly policies. I included attachments of reasonable photography policies and forms used in other museums to allow more significant equipment like tripods to be used.

    I got a quick response and they set up a committee to study the issue. The bureaucratic process ground slowly but it wound up grinding out a policy allowing photography everywhere in the museum except for traveling exhibits who’s owners do not allow photography.

    Try it.

  3. kortney says:

    Frustrating: yes. However, I understand why museums do it. I think it has more to do with the copyrights of exhibitors and less to do about the profits from books. It’s hard to get a large group of people to all agree on one thing.

    I wouldn’t boycott art though. Instead, like the others have mentioned, leave a comment at the end of the day–it’ll probably do more for everyone.

  4. I was bummed yesterday when i went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and they wouldn’t allow photographs to be taken. Not that there was anything particularly worth taking pics of but i would’ve at least liked to have been allowed to.

  5. My local museum/galleries excuse it they don’t want flash, but because the average camera user can’t figure out how to turn off their flash they just made a blanket policy.

  6. I had similar issues at the “Mark Twain House” in Hartford, CT where I was told that photography is not allowed inside the house after I paid my admission fee – I was wearing my 5D Mark II around my neck but nobody told me until after I paid.

    The best experience I’ve made so far was at the MET in NYC, they allow photography incl. monopods and on given weekdays (the slow days) they even allow tripods (you need to ask for approval, though) which is remarkable for a museum like the MET.

  7. MCA Chicago says:

    Good news! The MCA has allowed non-flash personal photography in the galleries for a while now. So please, come by again and document your visit. Also, the MCA is free and open late on Tuesdays (10 am – 8 pm).

  8. Thomas Hawk says:

    MCA Chicago, is this something new? When I was there in May it said that photography was not allowed in the galleries on the website. When was this changed? If this indeed is true that’s a wonderful thing.

  9. Ernie Nitka says:

    Exceeelent News – I have been to the MCA Chicago a number of times and really do enjoy going there – a change in their policy would only enhance my next visit. I would though like to talk to Non- Photographic artists to find out from those that prohibit photographing of their works, what their objections are.

  10. MCA Chicago says:

    The MCA revised the photo policy in the fall.

  11. more says:

    Good move with allowing non flash photography. About time they came to their senses.

  12. I shoot there all the time even some traveling exhibits (often banned at the art institute). There are sometimes a gallery they won’t allow photography in but it is open now like the art institute. Great blog.