The Rise of the Online Gallery

06/30/2010 10:56 AM |

Over the last year, a growing new online artist community has arisen, dubbed by member Brad Troemel as “Dual Sites.” This consists of artist-run galleries typically formed by fresh art school graduates who also run online galleries on tumblr blogs. They are located all over the globe (though the density is greatest in the United States) and are particularly popular with art students.

“Our appreciation of a resume is largely made up of recognizing accomplishments [in the form of events, exhibitions and curating] that we did not attend,” writes Troemel in his essay, “The Emergence of Dual Sites,” for the popular tumblr, The Jogging (which he co-authors). “Facebook invitations to Dual Sites’ shows are a telling part of their existence. Most of those invited to attend are not actually asked to visit, but to recognize the existence of an event—to believe it took place, and in doing so, value the exemplified support for the artists shown.”

This validation structure is significantly different from that of a gallery in which owners work to place art in important museums and collections as a means of increasing its value. In the case of Dual Sites, value is largely assigned by social capital garnered within the internet-art community, though the degree to which this occurs differs from place to place.

Curating as a means of showcasing taste and knowledge are key to this, which is why tumblr blogs often host images of work they like, as opposed to simply work they will be exhibiting.

As would be expected, the phenomenon is not profit driven. “Extra Extra is a labor of love” the Philadelphia-based artist and gallery co-owner Derek Frech told me, “because you know we are all working day jobs to support ourselves and the gallery.” The outfit is run by four twenty-somethings from Baltimore: Frech, Joseph Lacina, Bob Myaing and Daniel Wallace, all of whom are currently working together to find non-profit funding for the space.

Grant writing is never easy, but there are always a few extra challenges for those creating projects in which permanence is not a concern. “I think that the key thing with the way we run the gallery is that we don’t have any long-term plans,” Frech told me. “We want to remain as flexible as possible so that we can adapt if need be… and show relevant work that other people aren’t really trying to show.” The most recent example of this was their launch of Brad Troemel’s tumblr exhibition, in which he asked them to print out and hang images of their choice from his blog. “His show was about the loss of the control of the artistic identity on the internet… you know, like anyone being able to take your images and reblog them on the internet anywhere they want with or without credit.”

Extra Extra’s tumblr has far more visitors than its gallery, which is common but by no means the rule. Andrew Laumann, who runs Baltimore’s respected Penthouse, provides a notable point of departure. An early presence on the online DIY gallery scene, Laumann lives in a space he also uses for music performances and art shows. His tumblr was founded in July 2009, but like his sporadically planned shows, it is unpredictably updated. According to Laumann, one of the reasons his programming includes so much live performance is the development of the music scene in Baltimore relative to that of art. “I pair art with music out of necessity… waiting for a blue chip gallery to come to Baltimore didn’t make sense,” he said.

Jericho Ditch, a shack located in the middle of a swamp, likely took to the online community for similar reasons, while Reference Gallery in Richmond Virginia notes their connection with the city’s community is not deep compared to the net. “I’m pretty sure as far as the Richmond art scene or whatever, they are not that concerned with us,” James Shaeffer, the curator of a four-person founding team at Reference, told me.

Like many of these galleries, the founders are all straight white men. Exceptions exist—Nuda Shank is run by a man and woman, TenTwoTen is an all-women site based in Berlin, and six people, two of whom are ladies, run Appendix. Perhaps though, they will see more exposure in Brad Troemel and James Shaeffer’s latest Dual Site art fair, tentatively slated to occur sometime next year in a still to be determined remote location. Like Extra Extra, the two are in the process of writing grants. “It’s been a rough learning curb,” Shaeffer admitted, “but having an internet presence bigger than everything else has really opened up a lot of doors and new ideas. I think that that’s going to be influencing the way we curate and handle art in the future.”

14 Comment

  • Bob Myaing is Thai/Burmese not white 😉

  • And Ross Iannatti from Reference is not straight 😉

  • Daniel Wallace from extra extra is also not straight 😉

  • The new format of presenting the work is quite novel, and JOGGING has even made the dissemination of their work more interesting with the institution of the Positive Feedback policy, yet the work presented still seems laking.

    If there is anything at all interesting about the work, it is the ephemeral nature of the pieces. They seem to be created and documented in almost a spur of the moment fashion, to exist only in that moment. However, I can’t find much beyond this to be either visually or conceptually stimulating. Most of the images, ‘sculptures’ (if you can call them that), performances and installations simply seem lazy, with the facade that this is the intended aesthetic, which I simply don’t buy (or enjoy).

    The platform for distribution and their use of it is quite promising, I simply don’t believe the work being distributed is very note worthy.

  • who’s straight!?

  • Awesome, thanks for the nod!


  • Paddy is a straight white male


  • Nobody said Julian was white. Exceptions noted, the point still stands. This is not exactly a hugely diverse crowd.

  • @mirroring: I agree that the work at JOGGING is sometimes more demonstrative than substantive , however I see that as encouraging. One of the reasons I see the free/web art model as robust is that there’s nothing in it demanding a particular aesthetic. What Brad et al are doing is proposing a format and generating/activating a community of content developers, out of which some really mindblowing work will hopefully emerge. Its been great to watch that community grow.

    However, I am sort of worried about the economic side of the free art approach. As described in, it removes the (admittedly flawed) commodity based model without replacing it with a better one and instead asks artists to work for free. That subtext suggests both of a return to artists as independently wealthy individuals capable of running a career deficit, and of artists as amateurs or hobbyists. As a broke dude who believes sustained labor can lead to better art, neither appeals to me. It might just be a timing thing; I think we’re headed toward a culture of reliable and popular micropayment (see Peter Sunde’s Flattr for an early example) which could connect with free/web art in very interesting ways, so I guess I’m hesitant to see free/web art ideologically cemented in terms of a fragile and potlatch prone gift economy before new and emerging alternatives can be explored.

  • @Steve

    I think you are right that it is somewhat troublesome to replace a currently flawed distribution system, where the artist is financially manhandled to one where they control distribution and now receive no compensation.

    However it seems to me these galleries will mostly exist as a fringe activity or secondary platform for established players to utilize. Simply put the people making work and distributing it need to make a living and the way these online galleries currently exist they will certainly require some other type of income, whether it be showing traditional work and selling it, or working at Starbucks.

    The platform is great and I think JOGGING’s Positive Feedback is really unique approach to the creation of work, but these online galleries will have to truly be Dual-Galleries to survive or at least find a way to package themselves with another source of income to support not the creation of the work (JOGGINGs pieces don’t seem like they require much investment to create if any at all) but the people behind the work.

  • Nudashank is not an online gallery. We put on shows of art “objects” in an actual space and are not independently wealthy. We use the web for documentation and promotion of our artists (its 2010!). Although the physical space may be more secondary to the web following of our shows, it still serves as the platform for curatorial juxtapositions and the championing of the opportunity to see work from other cities (NY, SF, LA) in person (especially for the young and quickly growing artist scene in Baltimore). Also important is contextualizing local artists with those from other cities to develop larger connections for the often insular Bmore community. We are technically a “commercial” gallery but only in the hopes of sustaining the space and quality of our programming in addition to supporting the artists we work with.

    Seth Adelsberger
    Co-Director of Nudashank

  • It looks like the Straight White Male Theory has a few holes in it.

  • founders of appendix are not straight, queer as fuck actually.