December 11, 2007

Thank You for Not Sketching: Sketching Policies of New York Museums

A time-honored practice in formal art training, sketching art objects in museums can enhance the artistic experience. It's important to know, though, that each museum establishes its own policy with respect to permitted sketching materials. While the Met allows several types of drawing utensils, the Cloisters branch is more restrictive. Most museums do not have a problem with someone sketching with a pencil in a small notebook, but when a person sets up camp, spreads out an oversize drawing pad on the museum's lovely floor and starts pulling dusty pastels out of their drawing bag, then the security guards take notice.

What follows is a smattering of sketching policies of some New York museums, collected from their respective websites. Once or twice I made the mistake of drawing with contraband art materials, and I did not enjoy the official conversations that ensued. Hey, kids, stay clean:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Sketching with pencil, felt tip, ballpoint, crayon, pastel, and charcoal is permitted in all galleries of the Museum devoted to the permanent collection and in most special exhibitions."
"Please note that at The Cloisters, only sketching with pencil is permitted. All other materials are prohibited." (more details and info at the Met's website)
Guggenheim
"Pencils, sketchbooks, and notebooks are permitted. However, pens, paints, and easels are not permitted."
The Frick
"All visitors, including groups of art students, are permitted to sketch in the galleries of The Frick Collection on paper not to exceed 12 x 18 inches and with charcoal or lead pencils only. If individuals need to sharpen their pencils, they must use their own boxes to collect the shavings." (more details at the Frick's website)
Museum of Modern Art
"Sketching is permitted in the galleries (pencil only, no ink or paint) with sketchbooks no larger than 8 1/2 x 11 inches (21.6 x 27.9 cm). No easels, stools, or sketching while sitting on the floor is permitted. If galleries are crowded, guards may ask visitors to stop sketching or writing."
New Museum of Contemporary Art
"Sketching is permitted in the galleries (pencil only, no ink or paint) with sketchbooks no larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches (21 1/2 x 28 centimeters). No easels, stools, or sketching while sitting on the floor is permitted. If galleries are crowded, guards may ask visitors to stop sketching or writing."
Hey! Wait! Isn't the New Museum's policy the same as MoMA's? Like, the same words, except for the calculation of centimeters? Interesting! MoMA's math is more precise, by the way.

I'll add to this list as necessary. See other posts related to drawing on this website.

Image: Notebook, 6 3/4 x 10 inches (17.1 x 25.4 cm) and pencil, within the legal limits of most museums.

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