Thursday, December 10, 2009

Report from Art Bloggers @ Art Miami

Panelists Hrag Vartanian, Sharon Butler, Thomas Hollingworth, Libby Rosof, Roberta Fallon, and Paddy Johnson. Moderator Joanne Mattera. Photos: Elena De La Ville

Hrag, Sharon, Thomas, Libby

Sharon, Thomas, Libby, Roberta, Paddy

Libby and Roberta

Submitted by Joanne Mattera---At the invitation of Art Miami, Art Bloggers @ convened a panel on Saturday, December 5. While the rain fell in buckets outside, popping loudly at times on the enormous tarp that covered the  roof, we stayed dry and audible in a specially constructed lecture room. Scheduled for 90 minutes the panel continued, with questions from the audience, for close to two hours.

Topic: Beyond Basic Blogging: Carving Our Niche in the Blogosphere
The premise of this panel, the third organized by Art Bloggers @, is that art bloggers have developed a greater sophistication in what we cover and how we cover it. We’re specializing—sharpening our focus, breaking stories, offering news and service features—and typically publishing more material, often faster, than conventional print publications. In an art world chronically short on coverage, we’re not just filling in the blanks, we’re breaking new ground. Panelists: Sharon Butler, 
Two Coats of Paint; Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof; The Artblog; Thomas Hollingworth, Art Lurker; Paddy Johnson, Art Fag City; Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic ; Joanne Mattera, Joanne Mattera Art Blog, moderator

What follows are highlights of the panel (or, what I could read of my notes):

Q: Did you carve your niche over time, or did you create your blog because you saw a niche you could fill?
• Fallon and Rosof started their Artblog in 2003 when there was, said Fallon, “a huge vacuum of art writing in Philadelphia.”  Products of the city’s “huge DIY culture,” the two artists said, “let’s do it ourselves.”  
Added Rosof, “We wanted to steer the discussion in Philly.” Their goal was to cover huge swaths of the art scene that were ignored by conventional print media: young artists, minorities, women. “We wanted to cover all the people who were underserved.”  
• Thomas Hollingworth originally conceived Art Lurker as as a personal portfolio. "It quickly
evolved to be a community forum when my efforts got the writing ball rolling in Miami,” he said.
• Sharon Butler saw Two Coats of Paint as a tool for “building a community among painters”  by posting reviews and links from a “curated selection” of articles from other publications.
• Hrag Vartanian recently launched the “blogazine” Hyperallergic while continuing to post to his eponymous blog. He sees Hyperallergic, for which he has a business plan and accepts ads,  as a platform for people to discuss what bothers them (tagline: Sensitive To Art and Its Discontents). The new venture offers another benefit, said Vartanian:  “I’m sick of having to write for other people.”
• Joanne Mattera: "When I started my blog in June 2006, I didn’t have a clue. But by that December, when I wrote about the art fairs in Miami, I knew what I wanted to do with the blog: report on the art I was seeing in New York and elsewhere. I’ve been doing that ever since.

Q: Have critics-turned-bloggers changed the quality of discourse in the blogosphere?  Has their participation in the more democratic arena of cyberspace change the relationship between critic and reader, or critic and artist? Has the discourse of largely unsalaried bloggers changed how paid critics are approaching criticism—in terms of subject matter or length—in print or online? How are bloggers continuing to push the envelope online, thereby changing what and how everyone writes? Not everyone responded to every part of this question. It’s also worth noting that just about everyone has written for print media. Here’s a sampling of what they said:
• Paddy Johnson: “[The accessibility] lets people bother you quicker.”  She also acknowledged that the same accessibility gives her faster access as well.
• Fallon: “Having critics blog expands the discussion.” In terms of length and content, she noted that writing for print requires a more conventional journalistic approach  (she is the critic for Philadelphia Weekly), while on a blog “you can write about what you want.“ She pointed out that when a publication operates in both mediums, “a truncated version often appears in print; the full version on line.”
• Rosof: Whether she’s writing for print or on line, Rosof focuses on what interests her, what she likes. “We don’t take much time writing about what’s bad.”
• Hollingsworth is writing for print and for his blog at the same time. “I was surprised at how much editing is done in print. For my blog it’s what I want to say, how I want to say it.” That said, his approach is “more of a magazine format,” and his mission in any medium is “to inspire writers to write, and galleries to up their game.”
• Butler: “The blogosphere has changed the whole landscape, flattened the hierarchy. As an artist you’re fairly powerless; in the blogosphere artists have the power not only to join the discussion but to lead it. And," she noted, “the tools of blogging are free and available to everyone.”
• Vartanian: “Critics bring their readership to the blogosphere.” 
We all acknowledged New York magazine Jerry Saltz in this regard. While he’s not a blogger, his posts on Facebook generate a huge number of responses, so that a simple declaration on his FB page quickly expands into a conversation with multiple voices. (And a good deal of sucking up, as several panelist noted.)

Q: Bloggers have always understood that the dividends for our efforts are rarely paid in cash, but this year creative art bloggers have explored different ways to make blogging more proititable.
• Fallon: “We’ve had ads for four years. They’re community kinds of ads [from local galleries, foundations and artists].” In the early format, said Fallon, the ads rotated so that each received the prime position at the top of the sidebar.
• Rosof: “When we switched from Blogger, we decided to fix the position and raise rates: more for ads that run at the top, less for the bottom. But if you add it all up, there’s not enough income to support the two of us, plus contributors and the techie crew. So, yes, we’re bringing in money, but it’s not enough. We’re thinking about going nonprofit.”
• Johnson: “I’ve been blogging since 2005. I’m a writer. One of the problems with running a blog is that it asks you to do things you’re not good at.” She’s referring, I think, to technical issues and recordkeeping. "Half the grant [she received  the first Warhol/Creative Capital grant for blogging, in 2008] paid off debts that I’d accumulated. The rest has allowed me to live. I will run out by Christmastime. If you want to invest time in a blog, you have to find time to make it work. I can’t run the blog without the support of my readership. But," she said, “I hate asking for money.” She‘s also looking into strategies for advertising.
• Hollingworth: “I didn’t start my blog to make money. It’s a blog, not a job.”
• Vartanian: “I’m sick of culture being a grant charity case.” He’s promoting Hyperallergic with his husband, who is an interactive marketer. “I want to see what people respond to. We’re also going to be doing things like events.”
• Butler: “I'm exploring on-demand publishing to produce an edition of Two Coats of Paint artists' books that will be available for sale on the blog.” The first book she published was one of her own artist books, but she wants to branch out. “Generosity is the code among art bloggers.”
• Mattera: “I’m thinking along the same lines as Sharon. I’ve published books conventionally, but with my blog’s visibility, I think self publishing is the way to go now.”

Question from  audience member Alexandra Greenawalt: “The biggest challenge for me is not the writing but the promotion. I find that print is not the most effective way to promote my blog. My grandparents are the ones who say, ‘I saw your work in the New York Times.'"
• Fallon: “With a blog, we know what our readers are interested in. It changes what we talk about.”
• Butler: “Go to popular blogs and leave good comments that inspire other readers to click on your link. The blogroll is where you link to other blogs, and they to you. Posting regularly is key to developing a following.”
• Rosof: “Postcards. When we moved the blog [from Blogspot to another platform] we put the information on a postcard and left them in the real world: galleries, art cafes.”
• Fallon: “Do you have a Facebook page?”
• Johnson: “I put most of my focus on the content. Professionals will find you if you are saying interesting things.”
 • Butler: Twitter is good for driving traffic to specific posts.

Question from audience member Jonathan Stevenson, author: “Will social networking overtake blogging?”
• Vartanian: “There’s no way to achieve [what we do on the blogs] on social networking. Social networking, is more likely to replace phone calls than blogs."
• Butler: “Blogs and social networking are complementary.” But social networking, she notes, is more likely to replace postcards and other printed announcements than replace blogs.

Question from audience member Mary Birmingham, curator at the Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, New Jersey: “I’m a museum curator, and I find we’re getting more traction from bloggers than any other medium. What can we as institution do to work with you?”
• Butler: Museums need to have good websites. List all the artists who are in each show, link to their sites, include press releases and images of their work. Flash animation isn't helpful, but access to good information is extremely important.”
• Vartanian: “Museums could create a blog instead of sending email press releases.”
• Hollingworth: “Museum shows are not that interesting to review. I’m more interested in the corrolary things they do: workshops, seminars.”
• Mattera: "Have you considered an event that involves bloggers, perhaps as curators? By the way, museums need to abolish the no-photography ban."
• Rosof: “You have to figure out what we’ll cover and send info about those shows. We’re unlikely to go out of our way.”
Franklin Einspruch, from the audience: “Have you ever sent a press packet to a blogger? Nothing has yet replaced that physical package.”

With that last Q&A exchange, the formal program ended. Individual audience members and panelists stayed on to chat. Then, speaking for myself, I went on to lunch and to spend the rest of the afternoon perusing Art Miami.  


Thanks to Art Miami, Dan Schwartz of Susan Grant Lewin Associates, and Pamela Cohen, Perminak Consulting, for the invitation to panelize and for setting up the facility so well. Thanks, too, to Elena De La Ville for taking photographs.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beyond Basic Blogging: Carving Our Niche in the Blogosphere

Panel discussion @ Art Miami
Saturday, December 5, 2009, 11:00 to 2:00
The panel will take place from 11:30 to 1:00, with time afterward for art bloggers to continue the discussion in smaller groups.
Art Miami is in Wynwood, next to Scope, across the street from Photo Miami, just down the street from Red Dot.

Call it journalistic physics: With conventional print media in decline, art blogging has filled an unexpected niche. Armed with free or low-cost web hosting and a raft of photographs and videos from tiny cameras (sometimes even cell phones), art bloggers are posting reviews, reports, interviews, opinions, advice, links, and Tweets. No, we’re not The New York Times. And that’s precisely our power. In an art world chronically short on coverage, we’re covering events—often from an artist’s perspective—with a democratic and regional take on who, what and where. The best of the art bloggers have carved out identities with defined points of view, good writing, and you-are-there pictures."

Six panelists—Sharon Butler, Roberta Fallon, Thomas Hollingworth,  Paddy Johnson, Libby Rosof and Hrag Vartanian will talk about blogs—their own and others’—which have built a following by filling a specific need or point of view. Joanne Mattera will moderate. Audience participation in the discussion is encouraged.

About the Panelists:

Sharon Butler,
an artist and writer, maintains the art blog Two Coats of Paint and writes about arts and culture for The Brooklyn Rail and the New Haven Advocate. In July 2009, she started @ Bushwick & Main, an online photographic sketchbook that features iPhone notations from her wandering art practice.  Butler is an associate professor in the Department of Visual Arts at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Libby Rosof and Roberta Fallon started out making enormous sculptural installations out of concrete, but as they got older, they (sensibly) switched to making very small paintings and books out of paper. Everything they’ve made, large or small, has elements of autobiography because basically they think they’re really interesting. In April, 2003, they created the online journal “roberta fallon and libby rosof’s artblog,” twice recognized for excellence in Art in America. Both of them have taught, and they write essays and criticism off the blog. They also are big on the lecture circuit because they’re so much fun. Because nobody but their husbands and children can remember who is Roberta and who is Libby, in jest or perhaps in protest, they created the fictional character Liberta, who takes over the blog occasionally.

Thomas Hollingworth is a graduate of London Guildhall University who now lives and works in Miami. In addition to teaching and coordinating exhibitions on behalf of Miami Dade College he is the editor of Artlurker, a Miami based contemporary art blog that he founded in 2008. By documenting local, national and international cultural subjects and involving the local community for the local community Artlurker functions as both resource and a platform representative of the relative accessibility of Miami's art scene.

Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City is a writer who lives and works in Brooklyn. She has been published in, Art in America, FlashArt, Print Magazine, Time Out NY, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, artkrush, Art & Australia, Flavorpill, and linked to by such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine. Paddy lectures widely about art and the Internet at venues including Yale University and the Whitney Independent Study Program. She attended the 2007 iCommons conference in Croatia as a blogger. In 2008, she became the first blogger to earn a Creative Capital Arts Writers grant from the Creative Capital Foundation. Paddy also writes a regular column on art for The L Magazine.

Joanne Mattera is a studio painter and occasional curator who maintains the Joanne Mattera Art Blog to record and share what she’s seeing in the New York galleries, at the art fairs, and in galleries and studios around the country.  Though the blog’s description is “Guaranteed Biased, Myopic, Incomplete and Journalistically Suspect,” she is in fact journalistically responsible (though, OK, she’s biased toward painting and sculpture).  She recently instituted Marketing Mondays, a weekly feature that helps emerging and midcareer artists navigate the art world.

Hrag Vartanian is a New York-based writer and critic. His work has appeared in the Art21 blog, the Brooklyn Rail , the New York Foundation for the Arts Current, Huffington Post and Modern Painters. He writes a street art column named Re:Public, which will soon be part of his latest project, hyperallergic (subtitled “sensitive to art and its discontents”).

Featured in Premiere Guide Miami
Noted in Art in America's 2009 Guide to the Miami Fairs

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book your flight, we're meeting in Miami

Art Bloggers@ has been invited to organize a panel discussion at Art Miami in December. We're calling the panel "Beyond Basic Blogging: Carving Our Niche in the Blogosphere," and we hope to discuss developments in art blogging from the past year.  Click here for more details.

Six panelists—Sharon Butler, Roberta Fallon, Thomas Hollingworth,  Paddy Johnson, Libby Rosof and Hrag Vartanian will talk about blogs—their own and others’—which have built a following by filling a specific need or point of view. Joanne Mattera will moderate. Audience participation in the discussion is encouraged.

Date: Saturday, December 5, 11:00 to 2:00. The panel will take place from 11:30 to 1:00, with time afterward for art bloggers to continue the discussion in smaller groups.
Location: To be announced. Art Miami is in Wynwood, next to Scope , across the street from Photo Miami, just down the street from Red Dot. Back in the day it was the only fair in town. Then Art Basel arrived. Hope to see you there.

Bloggers: Book your flight, your room, and arrange for press credentials as soon as possible. Here are links for info about the other fairs:
Red Dot Miami
Art Basel Miami Beach
Pulse Miami
Scope Art Show
Aqua Art Miami
Fountain Art Fair

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

March 7: Blogger Panel at Platform Project Space in New York City with Hrag Vartanian, Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof

A recent announcement from Joanne Mattera:
Saturday, March 7, 2009, 5pm: Blogger panel at Platform Project Space in New York City with me (Joanne Mattera), Hrag Vartanian and the Fallon and Rosof Artblog duo, Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof, Bill Gusky, blogmeister of Artblog Comments, and Brent Burket of Heart as Arena. I hope you'll all show up with comments and questions. We're still working out the panel parameters. The panel is scheduled for 90 minutes in the late afternoon, starting about around 5:00. (This will give everyone a chance to see the galleries or the Armory fair events earlier in the day.) The panel will follow the Thursday, March 5th, opening of Blogpix, a show at Platform curated by Vartanian, Rosoff, Fallon, and me that explores the theme of the Blogosphere, and by extension Cyberspace, and by further extension to the whole concept of ones and zeros. Olympia Lambert, the gallery administrator at Platform and its support venue, Denise Bibro Fine Art, is directing the whole thing. I'll have a whole Blogpix post on the curators and artists as we get closer to the date, but here's the 411: Hrag has selected Ben La Rocco; Roberta and Libby have selected Christopher Davison; and I have gotten glutinous in selecting four of my favorite painters: Steven Alexander, Sharon Butler, Reese Inman and Julie Karbenick. Olympia has set up a Twitter page, and I'll keep you posted here.