Communicating About Art Online with Hyperallergic

I’ve mentioned it numerous times before: Hrag is the biggest art whore I’ve ever met. He’s the best in supporting the art community both online and off, talking about it and giving all his participatory energy into it. He’s so good that he’s recently received an award for it, which he passed on to #OWS. He’s also my gay dad.

As editor of the art blogazine Hyperallergic, Hrag is particularly engaged in how art lives online, how it’s communicated on social platforms and how media art translates on a screen. He recently taught a class on communicating about art online as part of the Skillshare Creative Arts Program I’m helping build. Here’s an interview where he rabbles on about how you can engage your audience as a writer, artist, and curator. He’ll be teaching more of these classes soon.

How is the way an artist might engage online different from that of curators or art writers?

It depends on their medium and what they want to get out of their online presence. The online world is not a one size fits all thing. But for artists it’s important to know that it’s their images that sell their work so they must seek an effective way to showcase visuals online. Art writers and curators often get ideas from the online world so it can be as (if not more) important than a gallery show as more people will engage with the world online than offline.

It’s pretty easy for an art enthusiast to explore all shows and gossip they’d want to find online but more often than not it’s a passive experience. What are some tips you can provide to engage with art online?

I think the key is to be discerning. There’s a lot of garbage online but there are also gems (even if they are statistically fewer than the bad stuff). You should also trust you friends and associates to help you find the gems. Curate your friends list, that’s crucial. We don’t have limitless time to peruse the online world but if you have a circle of 100 people who regularly look at art online, imagine how much more work your circle will be seeing and the potential to find great work increases.

How did you successfully stimulate conversations online on your very first blog before Hyperallergic was born and before social media platforms like twitter was used to spread your thoughts like a disease?

Disease?! HAHAHA! Well, there was a little bit of luck involved in the process and, of course, linking to others was more crucial than it is now. The audience then was different than now, and frankly I think people today have more respect for online writing than they did then.

How has twitter shaped the way you experience art online as opposed to other platforms like blogging and commenting?

Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr are quickly replacing feed readers. I use them to gauge interest in topics, I use them to find breaking news, interesting perspectives, etc. They are my network news and more effective for me than Al Jazeera, BBC or MSNBC. For instance, during the art fairs — whether in New York, Miami or elsewhere — social media
is a better way to gauge what’s happening and who is seeing what.

The art world has a long way to go in engaging with the public through digital platforms. Where there are apps every other day being created for the food industry for example there are only a handful that enhances the art experience both viewing and creating. What do you think will be the future of communicating about art online?

The art world is smaller than the food industry or those other fields. It’s a matter of time though. Museums, art schools and online art publications will be at the forefront of that innovation since galleries, who rely on older collectors, have less of a reason to innovate.

In terms of the future, I think memes will be more important in the art world than they are now.

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