More Reasons Why SF MOMA’s Anti-Photography Policy Sucks

SFMOMA | Press Room | Recent Announcements

The SF MOMA is out with a press release on a very new acquisition that they are quite proud of. It’s a new painting called Two Bathers by David Park.

Go ahead, click on the link above and go see it. Their photo of it is about 1/10th the size of my iPhone. It’s an eensy weensy little thumbnail pic. I’m sure David Park, who died in 1960, would be proud with such a stellar presentation of his work online.

If you wanted a bigger view you could always try to go to the SF MOMA and go take a photo of it yourself, but, alas, photography is not allowed at the SF MOMA. You can of course take photos at the much more prestigious NY MOMA. You can also take photos at NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The de Young here in San Francisco also allows photos. As does the Legion of Honor. As does the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. As does the Oakland Museum of California, the Norton Simon in Pasadena and the Getty down in L.A.

But not the SF MOMA.


They’d rather you look at a smallish boring little thumbnail pic of their latest David Park painting then let you come in and take a photo of your own. Of course if you could come take a photo of your own you could share it on Flickr or Zooomr or your blog with the rest of the damn world that will never set foot in San Francisco ever in their lives. People that live in places like China and India and even places like Kentucky and Florida.

Inevitably the over protective copyright zealots jump onboard. But, but, but, but… if we allowed photography, then artists wouldn’t show their work at the SF MOMA anymore. We have to have that policy, otherwise we’d never get any visiting artists.


Just like the same artists who refuse to show their work at the NY MOMA?

What’s really going on here is that the SF MOMA is being proprietary with their collection. They’d rather you buy their books at their bookstore than allow you to take photos of art yourself.

I used to boycott the SF MOMA because of their daft anti-photo policy. But I felt like I was missing some of the good art up there. The current photo show by Friedlander for instance is simply amazing.

Now instead I go (but usually on the first Tuesday of the month when it’s free) but take photos anyways. The first Tuesdays of the month are crowded and it’s harder for the guards to stay on top of you and your camera. If you’re careful you can still fire off a good 200-300 shots in the museum with only a dozen or so admonishments from various museum security guards.

On the other hand… I have a paid family membership at both the de Young and the Oakland Museum of California. I’m happy to support those fine institutions and their more enlightened photography policies. I’ve especially been enjoying Friday nights up at the de Young. They have a bar, a band, and have great artistic projects for the kids.

Photoset of images from the SF MOMA
Photoset of images from the de Young
Photoset of images from the Oakland Museum of California
Photoset of images from the SF Asian Art Museum
Photoset of images from NY’s MET