Forward Motion

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.