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Drawing the line on sketching

May 11, 2003|Diane Haithman

Santa Monica College art history major Roger Morante is "deeply concerned," "heated" and "outraged" upon being told by security guards at Los Angeles County Museum of Art that he must cease and desist from sketching on his notepad at LACMA's "Sargent and Italy" exhibition, which closes today (the deeply concerned, heated, and outraged Morante also holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from USC). Morante wrote in a fax to The Times that being prohibited from fashioning his own pen-and-paper rendition of John Singer Sargent's paintings challenges "his personal liberties as an artist living in the United States of America."

As it happens, Morante may not need to revoke his citizenship just yet. LACMA not only allows, but encourages "graphite only" (that means "pencil") sketching in its permanent galleries, and will even lend you a stool to sit on while you do it (easels are not allowed). But for an exhibition such as the Sargent, which contains many works loaned from private and public collections worldwide, the lenders may require the museum to take special precautions -- and in this case the rule is "no sketching" (that Morante flouted LACMA rules by pulling out a pen instead of a pencil did not play into his being told to quit drawing).

Actually, when it comes to its major museums, Los Angeles is remarkably sketch-friendly. At downtown's Museum of Contemporary Art, you can sketch in all galleries, provided you are not blocking an exit or interfering with the public's ability to view the artwork. They'll even provide the pencil. And at the Getty Museum in Brentwood you can sketch anything, anywhere, in "dry media only," which includes pencil and chalk.

-- Diane Haithman

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