By JESSICA DAWSON
May 8, 2014 9:21 p.m. ET
"Please touch" is an uncommon phrase in art museums, especially at a tourist magnet like the Museum of Modern Art, where gesturing too close to "The Starry Night" will provoke a stern warning from a uniformed guard.
"We spend all this time telling people not to touch objects, and here we're telling people to touch the object," said Connie Butler, chief curator at Los Angeles's Hammer Museum and co-curator, with MoMA's Luis Pérez-Oramas, of the Clark retrospective.
This don't touch-please touch paradox creates a special tension for MoMA guards accustomed to preventing strangers from groping the Picassos. All the guards in the Clark show, according to Mr. Pérez-Oramas, underwent multiple training sessions on Ms. Clark's life, work and touch-me ethos.
Still, wholesale cultural shifts don't happen overnight.
"It's a challenge for these guards," Ms. Butler said. "They're really great and they're really willing, but it's a bit of a work-in-progress getting them to understand what the parameters are."