“Is too much exposure for over-hyped artists whose careers were created by their previous dealers bad?” a colleague asked me this morning. He was referencing Roberta Smith’s recent review of this year’s Frieze Fair in which she fingered Gagosian as London’s art-as-trophy experts, though the question came up in response to an email I’d received earlier today. I had written Gagosian to inquire about their photo policy, as Saturday not only was I not allowed to take pictures (a change in policy from some of their previous exhibitions), but their front desk gallerina informed me illustrated check lists were only available through special request. The response given to my subsequent query was that in order to control the exposure of the work the gallery had a no photography policy.
While I’m not wholly unsympathetic to the position of the commercial gallery — sure it’s easier to sell the work if only the best quality images are circulating (maybe), and yes collectors respond to scarcity (though they also respond to Damien Hirst) — I find the fact that galleries wish to exercise suffocating control over the personal use and distribution of jpegs a little disturbing. Past the ideological problems I have with placing limitations on creative expression and freedom of information, it puts an unnecessary burden on my own practice of review. A lot of my pictures are crappy, but they serve a very specific function: they are unique visual cues to my experience of the exhibition. In short, they help me remember the show with greater accuracy, (which is why people like to take pictures). Also, in as much as bad snapshots can provide inaccurate representations of the work in question, good photography often does the same. I like to use both as a measure of balance. This way I have the close ups I chose, and the ability to disregard wide angle installation shots I know are distortions of the actual size and look of the exhibition.
Needless to say, until Gagosian revisits their no photo policy I won’t review their shows at Art Fag City, Time Out, or the L Magazine. Call it an object lesson1. Or something.