303 Gallery - protecting its artists from the internet

maureen gallace at 303 gallery - armory 2006

Maureen Gallace at 303 Gallery (The Armory Show 2006)

maureen gallace at 303 gallery - armory 2006

Maureen Gallace at 303 Gallery (The Armory Show 2006)

Due to our previous coverage of "photography not allowed" policies, blogger and artist Mark Barry forwarded an email he just received from 303 Gallery regarding 2 images on Flickr from his set from the 2006 Armory Show. The photos were taken during the press preview.

From: Simon Greenberg
Date: May 7, 2008 10:06:33 AM EDT
To: mark@markbarryportfolio.com
Subject: Maureen Gallace image - flickr

hello mark -

this is simon at 303 gallery. i noticed you had an image of Maureen
Gallace's work up on your flickr page - please be aware that 303 Gallery
owns the copyright to the work and all public display of images, including
web content. if you could kindly remove this image from your page, it would
be most appreciated.


This is one of the more infuriating things I have seen from an art gallery lately. Do the gallery's artists know that they're spending this kind of time trolling the web and harassing bloggers? It hardly seems like a good use of resources.


  • A quote from Lisa Spellman, the owner of 303, on her apprecation of appropriationist art
  • Mark's blog post on the 2006 Armory (but the images are only on flickr)
  • Edward Winkleman post on galleries and photography -- don't miss the comments

[The two photos above are the ones referred to in the email.]


Updated: more blogs on the subject

Perhaps we should starting thinking about organizing some political action to legalize photography in cultural venues. We may be able to get some city legislators on board and start a movement. It's getting ridiculous.

Galleries (and art fairs) are private businesses, so they certainly have the right to forbid photography in their spaces. I'm arguing that it hurts their artists to treat art bloggers this way.

However, museums are public institutions which receive huge subsidies -- direct and via tax deductions. The idea that the public has no right to take photographs is offensive and certainly should be a public interest issue. Museums can protect themselves from charges of copyright infringement (their argument for such policies) without flat bans of photography of works on loan.

Should start a campaign asking bloggers to display the images above. It would be a good rallying cry for fair use and would certainly challenge 303 to rethink their policy.

Hi, Barry, I especially love your act of protest--reproducing the pictures. I suppose we can all boycott 303, but why be as petty as they are?

I also believe that, because of both the circumstances under which the images were taken and the kind of use, these images are a fair use.

Anyway, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Thanks for mentioning fair use, as I should have pointed that out more clearly above. As Joy Garnett told me when I asked about this:

Film or photographic documentation for purposes of reporting, reviewing as well as for scholarship and education -- teaching -- especially if it's non-commercial, is protected in the US Constitution under "Fair Use". That is fact. If they don't believe you, tell them to look up fair use on Wikipedia:


re: "However, museums are public institutions which receive huge subsidies -- direct and via tax deductions. The idea that the public has no right to take photographs is offensive and certainly should be a public interest issue."

Unless of course the artist(s) prefer their work not be photographed. Would you still argue your point?

as an artist (speaking generally) i have a vested interest in controlling my artwork and how it's presented. so naturally if someone is using images of it in a way that may misrepresent me, why would i care if my gallery goes after bloggers?

now i am of course just playing devil's advocate, but bloggers need to be reminded that they (or you) are a publication, just not in print. and a publication has certain obligations in accountability and permissions; this is different from just being a lone person who snaps a photo off for their own edification and personal use (your flickr account is linked to your publication.)

All gallerists are entitled to look out for the copyright interests of works that they exhibit. Artists rely on gallerists to identify as many incidents of unauthorized use of images as possible.

The lighting on the above-posted images is atrocious, and it misrepresents the works. 303 Gallery is correct in its request that the work be removed from the Internet.

It should also be noted that attendees of the press preview at the Armory Show were advised that photographs should not be taken without the permission of an exhibitor. A blogger or journalist does not automatically have the right to photograph any work at most fairs.

In the event that no exhibitor is available to grant permission, it would be fair to say that an exhibitor does not waive his/her right to request removal of an image from a web site.

Jason, if the artist doesn't want to grant permission for photographs to be taken, I'm not bothered quite as much, but I still don't feel good about them taking advantage of the exposure in a publicly-subsidized space. However, what really bothers me is collectors (or even corporate collections) that have shows of their work in these museums, and forbid photography.

PS1 and the New Museum allow no photography anywhere unless you register with them as press. That doesn't seem to fit the spirit of the places at all.

"Fair use" generally applies to publications as well, not just individuals.

NOTE: I removed the post from "starpower" until I get verification of a real name. Everyone else here is identifiable based on their e-mail address or URL.

Fair use absolutely applies to publications; the fair use doctrine was created for publications. Blanket photography bans in the interest of "controlling my artwork and how it's presented" fail even the most basic tests of real-world circumstances when it comes to fair use applications. Should artists be allowed to edit reviews of their work before they're published? That is, after all, part of how the work is being presented. Once it's in the public realm, it's simply not up to you anymore.

Personally, I made a pledge a few years back that I won't show in a space *unless* they allow public photography.

Jason, you might (speaking generally) have a vested interest in controlling your artwork and how it's presented, but that doesn't give you the right to deny the fair use rights of others. Taking aside the issue of permission to _photograph_ in a private gallery, there is no requirement under fair use to to require permission to _publish_ such photographs in the capacity that they were made available.

The reason galleries don't want these kinds of photos online is because they are horrible reproductions. We spend thousands of dollars having work professionally photographed so that we can show the work as it should be shown - well-lit, properly exposed, color corrected - both online and in print. I don't troll the web looking for these things, more often than not it is the artists themselves who ask me to request these images be taken down. To not reply directly to an email I sent to you, and instead post about it on the internet - that doesn't really strike me as the kind of behavior that a vigilant crusader for "fair use" would be engaging in. At the end of the day, I can't control what goes on the internet, obviously. I can ask politely and professionally, and that's about it. If you want to get up in arms about a simple email, that's on you. But there must be something more worthwhile in this world to lose sleep over.

Dear Simon Greenberg: Perhaps you might have written a different email if this were your real agenda? You might have proposed to replace the photograph that Mark had taken with your own photo of that work. Instead, you suggested that his use of his own photo was copyright infringement. I'm not surprised he took that as an unfriendly threat as well as a chill on his blogging practice!

the gallery doesn't "own copyright" to the works, the artist does. ironically, they do own copyright to their own photographs of the works, just as you own copyright to your photographs of the works (!), so it's just a bullying tactic to get the jpegs removed.

Since there were no prohibitions of photography at the fairs, you were well within in your rights. 303 look like idiots arguing this (unless they had a no photography sign posted at their booth!)


Hi, Joy.

Actually it says this on the Armory web site:

"Photographers and camera crews must have permission from individual exhibitors before photographing artwork and must be accompanied by an Armory Show representative for liaison purposes."

However, given the number of people snapping photos with their cell phones and other cameras at the press and VIP preview, that wasn't exactly an enforced rule.

I've been holding back a bit to read the responses to the email I received from 303, especially from my colleagues with more cogent opinions than I am capable of (Joy rocks on this subject!). I must have taken several hundred photos at the Armory Show, as I do every year, most with groups of people blurring past the art. I post it as is and imo some of my best shots. If I happen to see something that I find special or in the case of Maureen Gallace--wonderful, I'll do my best to capture it, make a note and move on. I later gather my notes, write something about my experience, most often what I liked, rarely critical and link the shots that work best from my flickr.

It's all a very simple honest attempt to share with readers of our site, ionarts.org. The blog's primary focus is on reviews of classical music performances and recordings by my colleges and I am a free range arts poster. We happen to have several hundred highly educated/art buying (I have receipts) readers a day from all over the world, anxious to keep in touch with cultural happenings. Many readers would otherwise never have had an opportunity to see Ms. Gallace's work or of other exhibits I post about.

At this point most galleries are surprised when I ask to take pictures, often responding, "sure, of course you can". At the Armory Show they're annoyed when I ask. They are trying to sell art, it's free promotion and exposure for the artist. The remaining galleries that prohibit photographs I find are short sighted and yes, being snobbish. If my images aren't equal to a professionally staged shoot, it's not going to end the career of any artist and frankly I also want my post to look good.

As for posting the email, I didn't feel a direct response was necessary. I found it a bit creepy that a 2 year old image from a flickr site would would be of interest to anyone, except to those trolling for a specific reason. I hope the artists of 303 haven't given over the copy rights of their work to the gallery, that would be the most revealing point of this discussion and finally, I rarely lose sleep over anything.

I've heard this kind of reasoning before: "The reason galleries don't want these kinds of photos online is because they are horrible reproductions," and the concern is understandable.

However, it simply shows that we (bloggers) still have a lot of work to do to speak to those outside of the blogging world about how blogs function and how people use them.

If we were all in the same room, I would say, "Show of hands: how many bloggers here have had someone contact them and say, 'thanks for the preview, I'll check out the show this weekend,' or something similar?" I know I get that CONSTANTLY. Blog posts are not a substitute for seeing art, they are an encouragement to go see it and then think critically about it.

I'm all for the free exchange of images, but Simon is right, those are some horrible reproductions

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Published on May 8, 2008 12:21 PM.

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