Risky Art Exhibit? Texas Museum’s ‘Big Bambu’ Requires Liability Waivers

It’s not often that art lovers must consider whether they might be injured while getting some culture at a museum.

But the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has a new walk-through exhibit of 3,000 bamboo poles lashed together that requires visitors to sign a liability waiver before entering. Sammy Ford IV, a lawyer at Ahmad Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C., or AZA, says whether that waiver would hold if someone is hurt may depend in part on the visitor’s age.

“Texas allows pre-injury releases as long as the language of the release is conspicuous, which usually means that it is in larger or bolded text,” Mr. Ford said. And the museum’s waiver for the Big Bambú project does indeed have the language in bolded text. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York used a similar waiver when artists Mike and Doug Starn built a bamboo wave exhibit on the roof there in 2010.

“Interestingly, the law is unsettled whether such a release can prevent a lawsuit by a minor, who can’t legally sign a contract,” he said. The museum is only letting in children 6 and older who are 42 inches or taller. In addition, visitors who use the upper level pathway of the exhibit must wear rubber-soled shoes (no flip flops), be able to walk without assistance, and exercise “sensible judgment” while taking selfies.

The questions about whether parents can truly waive liability for their children has come up in lawsuits around the state after injuries at kids’ amusement spots like trampoline parks.

For an interview, please contact Mary Flood at 800-559-4534 or mary@androvett.com.

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