I really wonder how this would have gone down if it’d been in a U.S. gallery:
On Good Friday in 2008 John Berger went to the National Gallery in London to look at, and to draw, Christ Crucified by the early renaissance artist Antonello da Messina, a work he describes as “the most solitary painting of the scene that I know. The least allegorical.” Berger placed his small shoulder bag on the attendant’s chair in the corner of the room and began to draw with ink, wetting his index finger to smudge the lines and correct mistakes. Before long the attendant returned and asked Berger to remove his bag. Berger placed it on the floor at his feet and resumed drawing. The attendant said he couldn’t leave it on the floor. Berger explained that if he held it he would be unable to draw. The dispute escalated, and at some stage Berger exclaimed “fuck”. A supervisor was called who told Berger he had insulted a member of staff doing his job and had “shouted obscene words in a public institution”. He was escorted from the building: “I take it you know the way out, sir.”
Berger tells the anecdote in his new book published next month, Bento’s Sketchbook (Verso), which also contains his, hastily completed, drawing of the crucifixion . . .