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Forward Motion
February 1, 2006

Walker Blog

The Walker Blogs

In Artnet's predictions for 2006, art dealer Barry Neuman augurs on blogs:

I think it's a safe bet that there will be 50 to 60 new and bona fide (i.e., seriously authored by qualified people) art world blogs by the end of the year. Why is this significant? In some cases, the blogs may speed up the infotainment machine that's impacting the actual, hands-on, real-world art scene, locally and internationally.

And yet he doesn't sound very excited about it, does he? The qualifier gives it away: "seriously authored by qualified people," a sentiment totally contrary to the esprit de corps of the blogosphere. What's in fact great about most blogs is that they are nonseriously authored by nonqualified people. By the best count I've read, there are around 400–500 art blogs in the nation. Assuming even half of those are updated regularly, that amounts to a virtual library of information about artists, trends, and institutions. Even if not all these blogs are of the highest quality, the cream rises—and distributes the best information from the lesser-known blogs. To a certain extent, blogs survive by this network.

It's not "infotainment," either—we're not exactly writing the royal family beat. I don't think any art blogger lacks for passion or seriousness. In that sense, blogs aren't divorced from the art world. Artists, professionals, and enthusiasts writing about art are in fact part of the "actual, hands-on, real-world art scene."

It is true that art blogs are becoming more diverse, with institutions joining the ranks of the citizen journalist. For one of the Walker Art Center's blogs, eric has continued a series on museumblogging kicked off by Paul Schmelzer for Off Center: as the posts illustrate, the pool of museoblogs is expanding. But even to the extent that museoblogs bring some unique expertise to bear on the subject, the blog model is still fundamentally one that the layman can do as well or better. In other words, I wouldn't wait for the pros to come 'round on blogs before I started paying attention to them.

I'm parsing Neuman's words and disagreeing with what he's saying—and maybe I'm misreading his intent. I do think that the sentiment is right—new media outlets will grow and become a much more important part of the art world in 2006. And I'll see his ante of 50–60 blogs and raise him substantially: by the end of the year, every visual arts museum in the nation will be operating or encouraging some form of podcast.

Posted by Kriston on February 1, 2006 in American Art Everywhere


Thanks for the post, I had a similar reaction when reading Neuman's 'prediction'. It seemed like he was suggesting that current art blogs are lacking in sophistication (which is untrue) and will very soon be rescued by the 'pros.' Also, I don't see art bloggers as engaging in infotainment so much as being earnestly committed to the establishment of an arts-related online community -- a community less exclusive and more forgiving than its 'reality-based' counterpart.

No, I don't think you misread this! I found it a little cringeworthy. I write a blog about museums and design. I'm qualified in these areas but definitely don't view blogs authored by unqualified people as not being "bona fide."

What I hope to see in the future are more art blogs that are actually functioning as works of art. It seems to me that far too many art blogs are following a pretermined script, that is, "let me throw up some images of my current work and talk about it or here's some reviews of some shows I saw last week that sucked, or, hey, did you hear about the stupid thing that museum director did and now he's on he's way to jail."

These art blogs are all fine and interesting, but I think we're ready to go to another edge with the medium.

I'm really interested in the future of art blogs that are constructed to be more performative in nature: art blogs that are designed to exhibit original works of art through the blog format by incorporting the blog format as part of the work of art.

I would like to weigh-in, being a "bona fide, seriously authored-type" like Mr. Green, but having genuine misgivings about the "future" of art blogs.

If 10% of those "400-500 art blogs" out there are actively engaging in something other than, to use the able words of the Right Reverend Bailey, "reviews of some shows I saw last week that sucked," we might ostensibly have 40-odd art blogs possibly engaging in discourse about not only WHAT sucked but HOW it sucked. For isn't it the "how" that is most telling, for criticality in our little episteme ought to refrain from those Kantian "judgments of taste." Of course it's humorous to "dish" and see what's "hip" in NYC, but if there's to be a redress of the transhistorical position of contemporary art, if art bloggers have any potential to recover the "discursive site" from the institutional clutches of the "power elites" (museums, curators, critics), then we absolutely need insight, much verbage and fresh direction from these outsider "pros."

As my English pals like to say, here's where it gets a bit dodgy: the irony of a pack of art theory students, backwood preachers, semi-literate art-billies and various rank postconceptualists leading the established and aged "art world" back from its overdetermined, hermeneutic-ally sealed smugness is truly rich. And if even YAB himself posts on these outsider blogs ( then there might be hope for the present systemic "art world" damage.

And, for a sobering conclusion: the weaker impulses of the "arts-related online community" may have negatively influenced recent curatorial practice; MOCA's "Ecstacy" ( and Frank Warren's "PostSecret" exhibit ( reveal a drift toward "infotainment" (and, please, can we give credit to Mr. Mark E. Smith of the great punk band, the Fall, for this brilliant coinage?), which to this old "pro" at least, exposes a disheartening tendency soothe, sedate and salivate the Great Unwashed! Yes, it's tempting to pry into our dirty little secrets, as the dirth of "reality shows" willfully attests, and yes, drugs can be both "fun" and "inspirational," but these kinds of carnivalesque, meandering hurdy-gurdy wagons don't need to be hitched-up right now. They are a disservice to contemporary artists and art issues. Where are the real issues, o my curator?

Well, hmm. I've just started an art blog myself, so I guess I'm biased.

I think these blogs -- both professional and non -- are informative and fun.

The only danger, in my opinion, is if hucksters start blogs that hype the something-for-nothing scams in the art world (i.e. every new artist they represent is the next Picasso, or they found an "undocumented" Warhol in an attic, or they have to unload their collection of Chagall lithos at a distress sale price to pay for an operation, etc.).

The blogosphere doesn't have the equvalent of the ADAA to patrol whether "experts" are really reputable. But perhaps we can rely on other bloggers to give a reality check?

mcameronboyd: Let's not put the cart before the horse. If the claim is that blogs will change things about the art world, they can't be blamed for not having changed them already, can they?

Lisa: The great thing about blogs is that readers serve in that "quality control" capacity. A bad blog will be called out—happens all the time.

If you begin to read James Bailey's words and images on his blog the Black Cat Bone you will see how his writing and political bent have begun to take the blog into new directions. I also believe he has yet to completely investigate and find a comfortable seat there. Black Cat Bone is not easy reading and like most artwork it helps to understand the artist's attitude, altitude and direction --his angle of attack. It's hit or miss. Often James has the perfect balance of creativity, droll humor, topicality and insight to make me laugh or make me mad. Sometimes it's way over my head. I just don't get it.

Think Thomas Hirshhorn with words/images in a blog.

Presumably Neuman's including himself in the "bona fide" and "qualified" caste of people whose art world pronouncements deserve our attention. But he only highlights the inherent subjectivity of such credentialism in the first place.

Neuman's basically a survivor/hanger-on of the 80's NYC scene. And I'm sure that for him, practically nothing that's been made or said since can compare to those Good Old Days. It's the feeblest kind of close-the-door-behind-you-ism, and it's exactly what blogs should--and do--refute.

I'm fairly new to the blogosphere. I'm an artist living in Wisconsin, not on the east or west coast where most of the art reviewed by major publications is located. I love the fact that more and more artists are developing blogs. It gives weight to the importance of the art happening in other areas of the country.

Art made by those of us who live in rural communities is often different than art made by urban residents. It's not less sophisticated, not less culturally significant. It's just different because our lives our different.

Artists' blogs affirm that art and art discourse is organic, rather than static, and is not limited to those employed by museums, art journals and universities.

Kriston: Ceci n’est pas une petite charrette! (I knew I might regret my earlier “wagon” imagery.)

Perhaps my words read harshly, but I am clearly lobbying for art blogs to rise above the quotidian to a level of discourse in which we ought to engage those “how it sucked” issues.

But I won’t look “gift” discourse “in the mouth.” Your point’s well-taken and having wished for rigor, I’ll admit it exists (a few hit the right notes, most recently Iconoduel and NEWSgrist). I would hope that it goes “deeper” still.

I think you read the undertone of his remarks pretty accurately.

Blogs are interesting - like every other medium, those well-constructed (by pros or non) tend to leave a mark or suggest credence. The changing dynamic of information and cultural exchange can be an uneasy transition. It's exciting that blogs' existence will perpetrate a new understanding of art, etc. That there are skeptics of blogs is natural and probably a good check/balancing act.

I'm really interested in the future of art blogs that are constructed to be more performative in nature: art blogs that are designed to exhibit original works of art through the blog format by incorporating the blog format as part of the work of art.

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