Picture 1Writing for the Los Angeles Times’ arts blog Culture Monster on December 14th, art critic Christopher Knight wondered why more arts bloggers did not receive Creative Capital Grants from the Warhol Foundation this year. “As writers on art, bloggers just don’t seem to measure up,” he notes (a bit smugly, I thought, although I may just be reading between the lines there).

While it isn’t possible to know which blogs and bloggers applied for grants (or how many of those got tossed out as ineligible because they didn’t fit entry criteria), a Creative Capital spokesman tells me that, for 2009, the blog category had 153 applicants. Yikes. Maybe art blogs are generally a waste or only really bad bloggers submit applications or the jury doesn’t like the form.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. Two successful applicants this year got grants to start blogs. That’s a nice vote of confidence in those established writers’ abilities, but it also suggests the jury’s rather sizable degree of dismay with existing bloggers who applied for assistance.

“Is art blogging really that bad?” Knight asks in conclusion, leaving the answer open to comments. Weighing in on the issue are art bloggers such as C-Monster and Culturegrrl as well as Donald Frazell who I’d not heard of nor read before, but he commented at least three times.

There’s some bitchy snarkery about past winners as well one or two musings on why the awards were awarded mostly to those planning projects in traditional print (“dead tree”) media. But there’s nothing that speaks to what makes art blogging valuable, what purpose art bloggers may serve within a larger art community, or why those contributions are worthy of any foundation’s support (the fact that independent art bloggers can’t make enough money off ads or other forms of revenue to support themselves is not, to my mind, a good enough reason to receive grant money. Just because you can’t support yourself through the work you do doesn’t automatically mean you *deserve* support for it).

“Is art blogging really that bad?” The National Summit on Arts Journalism that took place several months ago showcased numerous promising online projects pointing to several future directions the form could take. I found it interesting, however, that Knight used the term “art blogging” as if it were somehow divorced from arts writing. To be sure, art bloggers use the internet as their medium and that medium, in turn, affects the nature not only of what but of how they write. This has had good and bad effects. On the good side: I think that, in large part due to the rise of art blogging as a new critical form, arts writers are a lot more willing to laugh at the absurdities and follies of the art world in a satirical and very public fashion. (This is why le snark often dominates the tone – it is a particularly economical rhetorical strategy in that regard). But bloggers have also often lead the way on arts news stories which papers like The New York Times only start reporting weeks afterwards. On the negative side, art blogging is shorter in length, shallower in depth, and, shall we say, far less artful in form than the best art writing we’ve seen in traditional print mediums. An art blogger’s chosen subject matter is often based on how many hits a story is likely to get, and the emphasis tends towards gossip, internet inanities, and the type of “news” stories that you pretty much stop thinking about two seconds after you’ve left the website.

If art blogging becomes the predominant form of art writing, over the years we’ll find standards being set, and eventually those standards will be recognized by granting bodies like the Warhol Foundation. And we’ll start seeing art bloggers receiving grant money on a regular basis. I think it’s still too new a genre of arts writing to be entirely trustworthy, and I count myself among those who view the profession of art blogging, as opposed to the practice of art writing, with a degree of suspicion. Art blogs can be a lot of fun to read — like Us magazine for the art set — but what I’m personally trying to figure out is if anything more is gained over the long term, for faithful readers who stick with this or that art blogger’s point of view over the months or years. Of that, I’m not sure. I suspect that the rise of art blogging is connected to an overall democratization of power and influence that’s taking place within the art world, although I know that many will disagree, arguing that art bloggers simply voice the same old hierarchical arguments in a social media-savvy guise.

At any rate, this is a topic that deserves further consideration and comment – so go on over to Culture Monster and add your opinion to the mix – or let us know your thoughts at mail@badatsports.com.

Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for Artforum.com and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.