Museums Controversies United Kingdom

Snap decision

London’s National Gallery now welcomes personal photography in the galleries, stirring up a media debate

The National Gallery’s position changed to “welcoming” photography when free wi-fi was introduced this month

The decision by London’s National Gallery to allow personal photography has stirred up a media storm, with commentators divided on the wisdom of permitting it. In March, The Art Newspaper published the first survey of the policies of the world’s top ten most-visited museums (see link below). Three banned photography (the National Gallery, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the National Palace Museum in Taipei), with seven allowing it.

At that time a National Gallery spokeswoman explained that photography “could spoil the visitor’s enjoyment of the art”. The gallery’s position changed to “welcoming” photography when free wi-fi was introduced this month. Allowing smartphones made it more difficult to enforce the photography ban.

More from The Art Newspaper


22 Aug 14
14:57 CET


I got told off in the Tate Modern for taking a picture...of something out the window! Some rules are silly. I don't see any issue with people taking a photo as long as it doesn't interfere with other peoples enjoyment. Flash should be banned.

21 Aug 14
14:36 CET


I do not mind people taking pictures as long as they respect visitors who want to enjoy pictures, artworks, etc. I don't like being told 'Please, can you move? I want to take a picture' while I am enjoying a painting. I would like museums to have a code of conduct for visitors who want to take pictures (similar to the Louvre's one) in which they are required not to disturb everybody else's museum experience. Thanks!

21 Aug 14
2:49 CET


Well it actually belongs to the British public. If they are happy with it then why not

21 Aug 14
2:48 CET


I found it very ridiculous when most articles quoted that the National Gallery couldn't tell whether someone was researching an artwork or taking a photo of it. Distinguishing these two actions is incredibly easy: the former is usually done facing downwards, while the latter points the phone to the painting. Personally, as much as I have hoped for the NG to allow photography at certain times (for the sake of my studies) tourist photography can be an absolute pain, especially if I'm intending to face an artwork for several hours in peace, and then suddenly interrupted by the flash or shutter of a camera. It isn't hard to turn off the flash!

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