As Good as the Original?

A museum comes under fire for displaying art reproductions

©Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images.

A museum visitor looks at an M.C. Escher piece in the museum.

Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher (ESH-ehr) is known for his reality-bending drawings and prints. Recently, Escher experts have criticized a museum in the Netherlands that houses the artist’s work. For more than a decade, the Escher in the Palace museum has been displaying replicas as though they were original works.

The Escher in the Palace does own original works by Escher. But authorities at the museum say that the collection is too fragile to constantly be on display. Instead, the museum displays copies of Escher’s most famous works.

To create the replicas, someone at the Escher in the Palace museum scanned the original Escher works. Then he or she printed copies on the same type of paper Escher used. Staff members say they can’t tell the replicas from the original artworks—and neither can unsuspecting museumgoers. 

Officials at the M.C. Escher Foundation, which aims to preserve Escher’s works and legacy, disagree with this practice. They argue that the museum is unfairly charging visitors to view what they are calling “posters.” Foundation officials want the museum to remove the replicas or put up signs stating that the images are copies.

“You go to a museum, and you expect that what you see there is the actual thing. You don’t expect to see a replica,” explains the managing director of the Foundation. “To me, that’s cheating.” 

Escher himself made many copies of his works during his lifetime. Some people argue that it doesn’t matter whether Escher made the prints on display, as long as the designs are his. Others believe the museum is deceiving the public.

What do you think? Should the Escher in the Palace museum remove the replicas? Why or why not? 

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