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marblecutter 02-24-2008 11:13 AM

Hands Off, No Touching !?
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How do you feel about people touching your sculptures?

"Signs throughout the Louvre ask visitors to keep their hands off the art
but one special sculpture gallery invites art lovers to indulge."

I took Braille lessons with a blind lady who made sure I was blind folded
during the lessons to make doubly sure I was only using my finger
to see. Galleries should do the same when they invite people to touch.
The experience should be totally a loving tactile experience. cm

GlennT 02-24-2008 11:20 AM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
We sculptors get to experience the touching of our sculptures throughout the entire process. That is a great part of the joy of sculpting. So why should we deprive the public from experiencing a small part of that when the work is done, as long as it is not a fragile piece?

An enduring tactile sculptural memory from childhood is rubbing the nose on the large Abraham Lincoln bust in Springfield, Illinois. The nose was a shiny brassy color against the green/black patina. A small price to pay for the joy it brings to the kids who touch it.

dilida 02-24-2008 12:28 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
That's what I like about bronze, it should be touched. Since a lot of my pieces are small, I'm always telling kids, you can touch it, you can pick it up. I appreciate the worried look Mom shoots me, but I tell them it's ok, the kids really seem to enjoy turning them over in their hands and looking at them closely. When adults pick them up, they are always surprised at how heavy they are, but I think that's part of the allure of bronze, the heftiness, and either cold or hot depending on the weather. I think people enjoy it.

But, I would think bronze is one of the few mediums that can tolerate repeated handling, I don't think I'd feel the same way about any porus medium. Then I would say, sorry, it's just too fragile.


AKady 02-24-2008 12:48 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
This is something that I have been struggling with myself. I LOVE to you touch sculpture, you just get so much more of an idea of the curves and what not. But as an artist I am also worried about the longevity of the piece. So ya I dont know.

Alfred 02-24-2008 12:57 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
I think this is a great idea, especially since they are reproductions... no harm to the originals. Personally, I enjoy touching sculpture, but I respect it as well. The shiny nose on Abe's face is one thing I would not like. But if handled carefully and with a light touch sculpture is something that can be enjoyed tactilly (sp?). When it comes to marble, I say hands off!! Touching marble can reuin it's appearance.

When I'm at a show with my work, I will touch it often when explaining things about it. The people there look at me like "you shouldn't touch that". I then assure them that it's okay and I invite them to feel the work. It makes their experience better every time.


tonofelephant 02-24-2008 12:59 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
At shows, caressing the stone sculpture in front of the client certainly seems to lower their inhibitions about sculpture. I feel bad for a lot of the clients who look at sculpture, they have been taught from a early age to not touch anything. They are being deprived of a great part of the sensory experience of sculpture.

Now when the clients start touching my wife's paintings, running their hands over them, etc. that's when a tart, tactful reminder is made to keep their mitts off the art.


marblecutter 02-24-2008 04:29 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
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Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden were told not to touch and...
The rest is (our) history.

Merlion 02-24-2008 05:11 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Some art museums have special arrangements to allow the blind wearing gloves to touch their displayed sculptures. Usually these blind people are invited in groups on special days at specific galleries. This also gives the museums a good public image. This below is one example.

Seeing MoMA’s Sculptures With a Distinctive Tool: Fingers

At the Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday, a group of
young blind Tibetans took a hands-on tour of the sculpture
garden. In 2004, members of the same group climbed
Lhakpa Ri, a 23,000-foot mountain on the north side of
Mount Everest

Merlion 02-24-2008 06:50 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
This below is the other extreme example where a nice public park with fantastic sculptures strongly discourage people to touch.

They may have a special reason. The very expensive sculpture deliberately does not have a protective coating. But this is a park which encourages families to roam freely. How do you stop the exploring fingers of curious children?

I am referring to Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park and the Richard Serra steel sculpture 'Wake'.

The above picture is taken from this link. Changes planned next door to Olympic Sculpture Park

manic 02-24-2008 07:50 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Art is meant to be enjoyed. While art is my life, it is just art. I heavily encourage everyone to touch my work (bronze, wood, stone, plaster alike). But that is my opinion and my work. I think the Olympic Richard Sierra deal is ridiculous. If it is outside, it is fair game, beyond vandalism of course

marblecutter 02-24-2008 09:09 PM

Hands Off, No Touching
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MOMA 2008 Tibetan guests were wearing plastic gloves.
If they can not read braille with plastic gloves how can they really see
the sculptures with such contraptions?:mad:

evaldart 02-24-2008 10:04 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Decent sculpture will challenge the viewer to touch it. If human hands are roaming over it, then it is working. Various liabilities exist, regarding the art as well as the person, and its quite true that "looking" is what it is there for...BUT, I have always felt the work was better when it received some physical attention (of course, locking your bike to it or plopping your fat ass on it for a rest is never desired attention. If I'm there I'll run you off).

Besides, we gotta knock on em here and there, make sure ol' Serra's not pulling a fiber-glass faux-finish on us or making those things hollow...cause if that was the case, and I dont care how convincing, the pieces would completely suck.

StevenW 02-24-2008 11:29 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
"Get your stinkin paws off me you damned dirty ape!"

Somebody had to say it. ;)

suburbanartists 02-25-2008 12:35 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Ehh if i'm ok with you peeing on it than touching's a no brainer. Go ahead Feel it up!

Workhorse 02-25-2008 11:00 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
I for one have touched every single sculpture that I could get away with. It is in our nature as sculptors. I will say even bronze is not impervious. If you look at the left foot of the statue of Saint Peter in the Basilica in Rome you will see that it has worn to almost nothing (which I think is beautiful) from the centuries of people touching the statue. It says something about time and our physical connection to a work of art.

Merlion 02-25-2008 11:37 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Tourists touch statues sometimes for curiosity, especially children, but sometimes for good luck, and sometimes in special parts of the anatomy.

By the way, I notice something interesting when I Google for information on this topic. When I key in the two words 'touching' and 'sculpture', this thread in Sculpture Community comes out top out of 296,000 hits ! I tried to narrow the search by keying in the three words 'touching', 'sculpture' and 'museum'. This thread also comes out top out of 45,500 hits ! Impressive !

dondougan 03-01-2008 07:10 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Late to the post, but I encourage most of my works to be touched. Have had shows titled "Please Touch" and been in numerous 'touchable' exhibits for visually imapaired as well as the sighted.
If you are a stonecarver your work WILL BE TOUCHED no matter what the sign says.
I have a few (pure-white marble) sandblasted-finish pieces that have not been sealed in any way and I just take them to the Do-It-Yourself carwash in the back of the pick-up truck after removing them from concluded exhibitions. The car-wash leaves the pieces pure and fresh as new.
Of course if the pieces were to be sold or were placed in a museum the owners/curators wouldn't do that, and it would be NO TOUCHING.
As one of the many hats I wear is a part-time curator for a local history museum, I was surprised to find out that part of the 'rules' for accrediting a museum officially require the museum to declare/insure there is no touching of exhibits (even if the artist was to specify that they would allow it). The museum cannot be accredited or retain their accreditation if they allow handling of items accessioned-into-the-collection, though touching is allowed for objects that are considered 'disposable' educational materials.


Julianna 03-02-2008 07:07 AM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
I'm always torn about this issue. I purposely try to make my sculptures inviting, but I always cringe when people reach out to touch them because all I can see are the rings on their fingers... and the inevitable scratches which will be left on it.

marblecutter 03-02-2008 11:03 AM

Please Touch
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My father had a motto: Touch with your eyes not with your hands!

I always think of the stones that sculptures are made of as invulnerable to the human touch. They are billions of years.
As a general rule I do not like high polish on stones. It kills the beauty that is always changing with water and light. Just like the earth after a rainy day, the wet sculpture becomes darker and gradually changes to the lighter hue as it dries. the glossy sculpture always looks shiny and wet. The joy of seeing those above mentioned changes are totally absent.
I mentioned in a previous thread that the writer and photographer David Flinn who wrote and photographed the David in Florence. He stated in his book that a sculpture is not seen until one touches and feels it. He claimed to have touched every square inch of the David while he was given unsupervised access to photograph it.
Others can look but will be punished for touching! :(
Please touch my sculptures with bare hands- no gloves allowed, cotton, plastic or other wise. Good old real feeling of stone and skin. :)

..... Mother and Sons ....... Three Peaches for Buddha

steponmebbbboom 03-03-2008 05:54 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
i think its all about intent. im a blacksmith now and most of my work is craft that is meant to be used in everyday living, not art pieces. yet. however the truncated TV series i did was not meant to be touched, as it was delicate. even so, ive had to pick pieces of trash out of my decapitated medium #1 at least a dozen times now, and i always feel like taking a hot shower afterwards.

sometimes its just easier to put it under glass or behind a rope to keep the riffraff out. some can handle the tactile responsibility, others are just brutal in their disrespect. you have to be willing to surrender the piece to the animals if you want people to touch the work. and that said, i think its absolutely ridiculous to expect people to keep their hands off a piece in a public park. vandalism is one thing. but that level of authoritarianism is just out and out arrogant. hey. you there. yeah, you the three year old. cant you read?


theyre lucky i dont have a dog, that sign would be stained green.

marblecutter 03-04-2008 09:52 AM

Reach out and Touch
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Reach out and Touch!

Paul Holbrecht 03-05-2008 01:19 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
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Having the need to touch a sculpture is in the nature of all men.

I'm the wife of Paul, and I adore to feel the smooth surface, the curves and lines. It' an urge hard to beat. Like Morning glory, she is very hard to resist, she feels like satin and that makes it so sensual ;)
When it's done with respect and clean hands of cours, it's just a compliment.
So enjoy it

tobias 03-15-2008 01:19 PM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
I allways say touch but then again I work granite so maby I dont count.

Julianna 03-16-2008 08:15 AM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
Of course you count!

I suspect that material has much to do with whether sculptors allow others to touch the work. If...WHEN I get into harder stones like granite and marble, I'll have "touch me" signs with all of my sculptures.

Blake 03-16-2008 08:28 AM

Re: Hands Off, No Touching !?
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I have encouraged touching the bronze (and marble) at my exhibitions, I think that it allows the "viewer" a different (new?) sensation and experience and it can not be shared in that way in a museum, so it becomes an important and novel part of the exhibition. I go so far as to put up signs inviting the public to touch the work.

It may scratch the surface but then that becomes part of the work and I feel that the work lives as a result. People experience a work of art through touch and that contact I see as being an intimate relation with an otherwise distant object. Also the change in the patina through touching and over time though the acid in our skin does change the work but I think this is evidence of a form of appreciation. I have one piece that is in public that has no patina left on one foot, her knee, the top of her head and a spot on her back side... I think that it is wonderful and would never consider trying to stop the contact. I have seen people leaning on her and patting her on the head. It is a form of affection... I think anyway.
I also try to invite vision impaired groups to my shows so that they can enjoy the art in their own way as well.

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