The first ever Douchebag Award goes to…

Wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Koons made a giganto version of this? The mind reels…

On to the business at hand: The staff here at is of the general belief that galleries and museums that don’t let you photograph the art are, how to say it…douche-y. For one, us barbarian blogger types, when we’re not sleeping in our cages or tossing our shit around, have a tendency to share stuff we like with other people. Sometimes this includes images by artists that we respect and admire. And because we operate on a negative budget, this usually includes photos we take ourselves.

Many galleries and museums, however, have strict no-photo policies. (Unless you’re a member of the rapidly-decaying mainstream press, in which case, you can take all the pictures you want.) One New York gallery has been known to take the no-photo thing to a bit of an extreme. Now they’re kickin’ it up a notch: the gallery has reportedly e-mailed a webhead who posted photographs of paintings by one of their artists and asked them to remove the offending photos. The gallery’s e-mail states that this is because the gallery owns “the copyright to the work and all public display of images.” Never mind that the pictures were taken during a public display of the work at the Armory Fair where there were a bajillion photographers. And never mind that the artist is also represented by another gallery.

In this day and age, in which information is shared and disseminated virally, this is the kind of legal B.S. that does an artist, the press and those who enjoy art a real disservice. Does the gallery really think it can control how and when people see an artist’s work? Even the business-end of this equation doesn’t make sense: Why would a gallery want to limit its audience? Or, more importantly, the artist’s audience?

At a time when fine art plays an ever smaller role in our civic lives, this type of action is not only knuckle-headed, it’s seriously self-defeating. For this reason, the first ever C-Monster Douchebag Award (refreshes as it cleans) goes to…

Gallery 303.

Posted C-Monster.


  1. Hrag

    Did I miss this award show? Sounds like the Douchebag awards would make for a good annual award program…is there a nomination process?

  2. Larry

    I can’t imagine any artist signing over the copyright of their work to a gallery. If she did, I’d love to see the contract.

  3. jasonlujan

    while i agree with any place’s “no photo” policy re artwork on display i also believe in fair play and if you (or someone) manages to get a stealth photo then by all means you (or that someone) should be able to discreetly show it without worrying the venue getting ‘lawyered up’ over the fact that you (or someone) managed to put one over on them.

  4. Marshall

    Hey, it’s not just galleries that are douche-y in this way. I’ve run across one artist who filed a DMCA complaint against me for posting photos of said artist’s work on Flickr, even though the venue that they were taken at is a public resource and specifically allows photography.

    The extra douche-y bit? Of the works whose photos I posted, at images of at least one was already online and easily found.

  5. Juana B. Riquena

    C, there’s aren’t enough douche bags to to around.

    Twice in as many weeks I have gotten the “no photos” mandate. I’ll tell you about them, but I’m going stealth on you:

    The first was in Portland, Maine, when, in response to my query, “Do you mind if I shoot?” the young man behind the desk said, “No pictures, please.” I gave him my card, which includes my blog name, thinking that that would change his mind. But no. “The gallery is protecting the copyright of the artists,” he explained. (Apparently this copyright business is being invoked all which ways.) So a small show that might have gotten attention coverage beyond “The Portland Telegraph” didn’t.

    Then in Pace last Friday, I’d gotten off about three shots of the Nozkowski show when the gallerina said, “Madam, you can’t shoot.” I’m no madam, so I kept shooting. She was inistent, to the point of saying, “I’m going to have to ask you to erase the images.” Unh huh. I even appealed to the director, whom I spotted in the doorway to the inner sanctum. “Gallery policy,” he said, making that flat “x” sign with his hands.

    At least Pace’s online pictures are good. I’ll post them soon, with a companion piece about Tomma Abts at the New Museum–where… there’s… also… a… no-photo policy. So I found all the Abts images on the Internet and I’m using those.

  6. Eric F

    “I can see it, therefore I can take photographs and post them wherever I please?” It could be an argument, if you were ignorant of the concepts of copyright and intellectual property. Try it out while aiming a video camera at the screen at a film festival and see how the film’s producers take it.

    Why not just ask at the front desk for jpegs?

  7. ruthk

    Why don’t you do what any journalist would do and ask the gallery or museum if they have press images available for reproduction? Or tell them ahead of time that you want to take images of the exhibition for journalistic purposes and set up a time to do that in a supervised manner, which is standard protocol. You’re a professional journalist, act like one and work with them and their rules. Convince them you can bring worthy attention to the work they do. And BTW they have every right to turn down your request, even if their reasons (e.g. they don’t perceive you as legitimate) are ridiculous. You don’t get a pass just because your professional modus operandi is by definition guerrilla-esque. You may have entirely legitimate purposes for taking pirate photos, but others might not. The gallery or museum is indeed protecting the artist, or at least they think they are, but that’s their right.

  8. C-Monster

    One, the photo was taken at the Armory Fair, where everyone and their mother was was taking pics. It was not surreptitious..

    Two, “journalists” who ask permission before doing stories aren’t journalists, they’re amanuenses. Or a member of the White House press corps.

  9. SErges

    Interesting that a woman owned gallery gets the “douchebag” award. Not only is your choice of title and imagery extremely questionable, but the ease with which you spread your misogyny and the glee with which it is embraced is shameful. Really, what does vaginal cleansing have to do with copyright issues? Maybe that was funny in fifth grade, but come on! Those associated with cultural production should have the intelligence and sensitivity to be more careful with their critical language.

  10. Juana B. Riquena

    When I go into a gallery, I want my readers to see what I see. That’s why I’m writing my blog. If it were just a matter of J-pegs, I could write “Thomas Nozkowski, Pace Wildenstein Gallery,” and provide a link.

    Also, shooting a show is part of the thinking process. I’m connecting the dots visually and verbally. I want to be able to get up close for a detail or shoot two paintings that are in a particularly interesting visual conversation.

    Journalists and bloggers work in different ways. When I worked as a paid journalist, I had the luxury of planning a day’s worth of gallery visits, calling from my office, and then going to the galleries. As an unpaid (but no less serious) blogger, I don’t have that luxury. I’m a working artist who fits in visits to the galleries. I don’t have an assistant or a secretary. I do it all myself.

    I do understand and appreciate a gallery’s need to protect its artists and images, but bloggers–whose reach is far greater than the average print journalist, if only because the posts remain viable in the blogosphere pretty much forever–offer far greater long-term coverage. The art fairs recognize this and issue press passes to bloggers. Some of the galleries understand and permit pictures. I’m at the point where if I can’t get permission to shoot, I’m not reporting on the event.

  11. Marshall

    Juana has it spot on. By presenting my photos, rather than a gallery’s stock ones, I’m trying to translate my own experience of the art to the viewer, not simply parrot the gallery’s presentation of the work. And shooting work is certainly part of my own thought process, and gives me a personal library of reference works that benefit my writing and my own art experience.

    There are times when you have to respect a venue’s wishes or an artist’s (or their estate’s) rights in the service of writing a good blog post, and smart bloggers know how to handle themselves. It’s worth noting that venues and artists that try and wall themselves off from loose internet coverage are really just reducing the potential profile of their artists, especially emerging ones.

    SErges – you’re ridiculous. And your poorly reasoned accusation contains its own revealing bigotry – people of either gender can and do make use of douchebags. If gender had anything to do with C-Monster’s post, I’ll eat my hat.

  12. C-Monster

    couldn’t agree more with juana and marshall. i’m not here to serve as some gallery’s marketing outlet. i’m here to show readers what i see — and what i see doesn’t always jibe with the state-sanctioned photos. besides, in an industry that celebrates appropriation as unheralded artistic genius, you’d think this would be easier to understand. ex: richard prince can take a photo of a marlboro ad and it’s high art. but if i take a photo of that richard prince, i’m violating copyright. do people really believe that artists are allowed to talk to their viewers but that we’re not allowed to talk back?

    as for your hat, marshall, it’s safe for now. if anyone’s gonna play the oppressed-constituency card on this blog, it’s gonna be me!!!


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  14. Rita

    C, I just want to get this straight: You’re calling 303 Gallery a douvhe because they protest the posting some very crappy photos that could misrepresent the work one of their artists?

  15. ruthk

    I guess I don’t understand what it is that you’re covering. The gallery or the art? If it’s the art, then any decent reproduction will do, even – god forbid – a gallery’s press image. “State-sanctioned photos” makes it sound like you think the gallery by definition is hiding something or misrepresenting something. You’re not covering Vietnam or Watergate, it’s the art world! Ambush journalism is not called for. And it just brings more attention to you and your carefully cultivated outsider/adversarial status, which frankly doesn’t interest me as a reader. I am interested in your response to the work, but you know what? Try using words.

  16. Juana B. Riquena

    Ruth, Ruth, Ruth–

    We’re visual people who use words in a visual medium. So in our blogs–as opposed to the pictureless comments section such as this–words actually are not enough.


  17. SanSuzie

    Germaine dialogue of a nature that explores symbiosis between viewer, viewed and the stewardship of viewerism necessitates immediate and visceral collaboration between blogged and blogger. The photograph is nothing more than a hyper-relational extension of the creative process.

  18. km

    Here’s an interesting twist for you all. Since this discusssion is about copyright, consider that a photographer is also the copyright holder of his or her works- the photographs. It’s the same mechanism that applies to pop art like the Soup Can painting.

    Eric F, you are comparing apples to oranges here. Videotaping a film is copying the work and is considered piracy when it’s done for profit, as it generally is. Photographing a piece of fine art is depicting that piece in another medium, as well as having an entirely different purpose. Plus, you have the additional wrinkle of the fact that film is a collaborative process, so not only is the film itself a protected work, but the actors also have a right to control their images, as per union rules. Since there is no profit motive, it could be argued that posting a picture of an artwork on a blog is Fair Use, since technically it is personal use.

  19. Deborah Fisher

    Wow, this turned into such an interesting discussion–my mind has been changed since the last time I visited this post and started to leave a comment.

    When I read this post a couple of weeks ago, I figured that the gallerists were merely asserting their status as purveyors of luxury items by rebuffing the hoi polloi of bloggers streaming in and out of their spaces, snapping all the expensive essence out of each and every work. I figured that death by overexposure seems a real threat to someone who is creating value out of thin air. While the bloggers were technically right, and while the gallerist’s behavior is boorish, I was amused that everyone was getting in a huff about a gallerist being a snob.

    But I like RuthK’s argument. It made me think about how I’d feel if a bunch of nasty orange snapshots of my work were the first things you saw when you do an image search on my name.

    What kind of personal use is a blog? It’s very public, quasi-journalistic “personal use” in a vehicle that’s designed to create a high search-engine ranking. I say this as someone who is very lazy with other people’s images on my own blog. I don’t include a photo credit as I should, and sometimes I don’t even identify an artist carefully. I don’t really blame myself, but I am thinking about this right now with a different sensibility.

    There is a common-sense angle to all this that’s getting forgotten. Artists are told upways and down that they really must control their photographed presence. Take good slides, know how to submit a decent jpeg, know how your work looks to other people. We applaud artists who are proud enough of their work to photograph and otherwise present it carefully. And yet when gallerists attempt to pay similar attention to how work is presented, they get the smack!

    I think that both sides are right. Blogs are personal diaries, and you should be able to take a snapshot of a sculpture or painting without diluting its essence or whatever. But bloggers should also see that they are re-presenting unauthorized versions of other people’s work in ways that might hurt the artist, at least a little, in their effort to have high-quality images that accurately represent the work.

    I don’t blame the gallerists for wanting to control which images make it online. And I think it’s so freaking easy to get good images from gallerists that there’s no excuse not to at least try to play nice.

  20. gallery revisited

    i don’t mind photography in my gallery. many of the artists i show have blogs and like to post highlights from their openings.
    i also try to ask people where they are going to post the pics, because i would like them to email me a link so that i can cross-blog.
    most people get scared or feel sheepish, and i have to reassure them that i really don’t mind, i just want to know where the images are ending up.
    it’s the day and age.of new technology…besides, it is my understanding that artists own the copyrighting of all of their work regardless of who owns it.
    in the event that something was not to their liking they can let me know or track the person down…all of the blogging is harmless, in my opinion – if anything it is helping promote the artists and the galleries by testimonial from
    regular and important people alike – almost everyone has a blog…most major magazines do too, and they are written by the young people going out to snap pics.

    in the scheme of artists work not being represented well by said photo pic…i say let it go to a certain degree. or just send the author a better jpg and ask them to replace it. both sides should really have no big deal with any of this.

  21. mark

    Finally, of the 4000 or so pictures on my flickr site, this is the one that gets all the attention :) . I agree it’s not one of my best, It was taken at a huge venue with thousands of people walking past. In this instance I took a quick snap for reference, I really like her work, to write it up later. As mentioned before we’re not selling the work, in this case just giving an impression of the event. MOst of my pictures at art fairs include the crowds of people walking past, that’s the best. This image was from 2 years ago, I’m getting better, well maybe.

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  23. Ricardo

    The real douches are the folks who think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and f*k anyone who disagrees with them.

    Be a man, live up to your societal obligations, and stop smearing others.

    That’s all.