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If This Can Happen at the Met and the British Museum…We Have A Big Problem

Two completely unrelated news items have prompted this post.

It has become pretty clear of late that many people do not know how to behave (gosh, is that too old-fashioned a term, even?) in art museums.

On May 4, the New York Post reported that celebs at the Met’s* recent Costume Institute gala had smoked cigarettes, vaped and in general misbehaved, blocking access to the stalls and upsetting trustees and other donors. It quotes one source saying:

“As a donor to the Met, I was so insulted to see all these ‘celebrities’ smoking and taking selfies of themselves in the bathroom. Mostly, it’s disrespectful to the art collection, which needs to be kept 100% smoke-free. I would honestly like to see these people fined by the city.”

And another said:

…that one buttoned-up female board member was horrified when she went into the ladies’ loo and found a host of celebs cavorting around inside, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kylie Jenner, Paris Jackson, Kim Kardashian, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who took an epic selfie.

Time to rethink Anna Wintour’s concept for the gala?

Add to that this, which The Art Newspaper recently reported:

The British Museum has more than 50 incidents a year of pencil graffiti on its ancient sculptures. The London museum uses the term “graffiti” to refer to any marks drawn by visitors (not just written letters), and in most cases they are accidentally applied, usually by schoolchildren. Pencil is removable, but with one case a week, this raises serious concerns about the protection of the collection and the way the galleries are monitored.

…Pencil is removable, but with one case a week, this raises serious concerns about the protection of the collection and the way the galleries are monitored.

Last year, the UK’s Telegraph discovered that nearly 1,000 “precious” items in British museums had been damaged over the last decade.

I’ve increasingly noticed the posting of Don’ts, and sometimes Dos, at museums. They do not seems to be enough.

*I consult to a museum that supports the Met.


  1. Jim Lewis says

    I seem to remember something about not sitting on public bathroom floors.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It’s disappointing to see this type of disrespectful behavior in museums, but can we really be surprised? Given our postmodern world and the casting off of moral standards, especially in the past 20-25 years, I’m surprised they’re not bringing in cans of Krylon and spraying their own “exhibit” on the walls. This really speaks to a much larger issue in our culture. But I’m sure there are books written about it already.

    • Yes, it about the culture, but I think the way Anna Wintour has taken the Costume Institute ball, heavily into the entertainment world–including many people who know or care nothing about art–has made matters worse.

      • I so agree Judith! These celebrity types showing no respect to the work artists whose work has stood the test of time.

  3. Erzi Farkas says

    The Met Gala Bathroom Selfie is BRILLIANT! Museums are sacred places. No one should smoke in our cultural temples. BUT WOW!!! If this were my museum, I’d take these images and run with them. These images are a great way to boost Met audience participation. They are also a great way to start warming the pockets of future Met funders, many of whom are in the selfie. If the Met wanted to create a similar photo how much would it cost? A small fortune. This is free. The MGBS is museum bookstore fodder. Turn these pictures into calendars, posters, coasters and cell phone covers. I’m not a millennial nor am social media fan but the next time I’m at the Met….I’m taking a bathroom selfie. Museums house our heritage, our culture. They are places filled with do not touch signs. This time our heritage reached out….The Met should gab it and run forward into the future.

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