Over the weekend there was a whole lot of hot air and guff raised about the ban on sketching in a recent V&A exhibition. Now there are arguments on both sides but the truth is that one of the reasons why we, the public, fund institutions such as the V&A is so that we can examine great works of art and design to get inspiration and to learn. There is no better way of doing this than sitting or standing in front of an object and trying to make a drawing or sketch of it. If, like me, you usually end up feeling just a little inadequate at the result of the time you spent well then this can be a positive as it will spur you on to work and understand just how these things are done.
However, as an inveterate sketcher let me break a little secret to the world of huff and puff – there are very few of us left. I was in a university art gallery not too long ago when I was congratulated by the staff there for sketching – it seems I am a dying breed. If that is true it is a real shame but you do have to wonder just what are all those art students out there doing? Is their technique and understanding so great that they don’t need to spend time looking and absorbing and copying? Or is it that now it is thought that Google or Pinterest is a suitable substitute for encountering the real thing? I was once asked by a young friend why I need to go to galleries and my answer is that you don’t know a painting until you’ve smelt the canvas. A bit overboard? Perhaps but it does make the point you don’t know something until you have encountered it in the real world.
So the V&A ban doesn’t really add up as it smells much more of making sure they can get punters through the door than allowing people time to study the work but let us not kid ourselves – very few people nowadays spend time sketching or drawing in art galleries anymore or is it that there never was that many people in the first place? I don’t have an answer to that as I’ve not been at this art thingy long enough. I do hope I am wrong.