the victoria & albert museum bans sketching at its underwear exhibit

You are officially not allowed to draw pictures of any of the underwear you see at the V&A Museum’s ‘Undressed’ show.

by Blair Cannon
25 April 2016, 5:21pm

London's Victoria and Albert Museum has recently come under fire for banning not only photography, but also sketching, at its most recently opened exhibition, "Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear." The museum claims that this ban must be reinforced due to certain loan conditions, and does not elaborate further. While banning photography — especially in its most obnoxious forms, like the selfie stick — is relatively commonplace among distinguished exhibits, sketching is rarely against the rules. The V&A Museum did, however, rule out sketching at its 2013 Bowie exhibition, apparently to prevent congestion and keep the crowd flowing.

Chief art critic for The New York Times, Rachel Campbell-Johnston, criticized the sketching ban, explaining that it is "like telling a reader to go to a library but telling them they can't read the book." The Guardian's architecture and design critic Olly Wainwright called it a "draconian rule" and questioned if wheelchairs and strollers would also be banned because they take up too much space. It seems that banning sketching raises completely different questions than banning photography. Sketching is an interactive and thoughtful process, arguably unlike snapping an iPhone, and contributes significantly to an artist's training and education. The Museum tweeted in response to the flack, "We continue to support and encourage sketching in our seven miles of permanent galleries!" but it seems people really wanted to sketch the underwear exhibit the most.

There's no surprise there, as "Undressed" looks like a compelling take on fashion culture. The exhibit explores Britain's relationship with undergarments, unraveling the ways that gender, sex, and morality play into how we dress even underneath our clothes. It spans everything from a cotton and whalebone corset from 1890 to a men's pajama-inspired top and pants set from Sibling's SS13 collection. Other highlights that reveal just how intrinsic underwear is to fashion include displays and numerous photos of lingerie, the Queen's cotton knickers, Kate Moss' dangerously sheer 90s dress, David Beckham's H&M briefs, sagging jeans and Calvin Klein branding aplenty, and a 2004 Juicy Couture tracksuit. We're guessing that last one isn't one of the high profile loans the museum is talking about, as your neighborhood "cool mom" and her chihuahua might even still have theirs.


Text Blair Cannon
Image via Twitter

victoria and albert museum