One of my favorite art bloggers, Edward Winkleman, posted on a gallery’s responsibility is to warn visitors before they enter a potentially upsetting exhibition. Like many museum and gallery people, he’s waffling on the issue: he can see that parents might appreciate knowing in advance that an exhibition includes “mature” content, but he also makes this very valid point:
The main problem with warning signs, of course, is how they frame the work before the viewer encounters it, setting up a predetermined context in which the viewer should approach it. In other words, the viewer is not permitted to make up their own mind about the work, free of the institution’s instruction.
He argues that a sign puts visitors in a position of entering the gallery with their defenses up — I agree. But – – on the other hand, I wonder if for a lot of parents, any show at a contemporary art museum would get their defenses up. Would you be more on guard with no signs, and no guidance on what to expect, or with signs at the entrance to each potentially upsetting gallery?