Curating the Curated: Three Great Art Blogs

08/18/2010 3:30 AM |

The redefinition of the term “curator” was discussed to death last year, and not just as it relates to organizing web content (you know, blogging). The New York Times‘s Alex Williams talked to countless creative professionals donning the title, The American Association Museums took issue with the term’s over-use, and Tomorrow Museum hosted a hilarious round-up of the more ridiculous attempts to capitalize on the prestige of the position. (Seriously, panty curators sending hand-picked underwear to your door every month?)

And though the rise of social networking has meant that “friends” now act as our main curators of web content, there are still some art bloggers out there worth a mention for their curatorial efforts, which come close to museum-level in their expertise.

Anonymous Works, a three-year-old blog, regularly finds bizarre and fantastical outsider and folk art, mostly through eBay. Museums would do well to purchase a few of anonymous Californian blogger “Joey’s” recommendations, though the blog’s notoriety tends to push up eBay auction prices on listed items. Highlights include a vintage photograph of a woman standing on top of her flying magic carpet, a floating top hat with silk scarf and bizarrely fat-headed poodle. Joey has a predilection for magic and old photos of people doing strange things.

The success of Anonymous Works lies in its author’s ability to spot jewels amid crap, a particular kind of connoisseurship unique to blogs, requiring ingenuity with effective buyer alert search terms, in addition to a keen eye. Few do it as well as Anonymous Works.

Internet curating isn’t limited to the curation of found material. For example, BLDG BLOG author Geogh Manaugh is, as he describes it, his own “guinea pig” in a project called “Bloggers in the Archive,” at the Canadian Center for Architecture. This means he spent a lot of time this summer curating the curated, rummaging through the museum’s archives for cool ephemera that typically go unseen by the public. I like a lot of this material, in particular the stunning image of the William Notman & Son building in Montreal encased in ice after a fire. This project employs Manaugh’s natural curiosity in a way that benefits both the blog’s readers and the museum. Museums should consider expanding their programs to include collaborations such as this one.

In other “curating the curated” projects, Forrest Nash’s Contemporary Art Daily highlights shows from around the world, posting 15 or more images per exhibition, often several times a week. This means readers who would otherwise be unaware of the stunning Hans Peter Feldmann exhibition that took place in Sweden this February at least have the opportunity to see it online. The site is a handy tool for other curators, though its seamless recreation of a gallery’s aura makes everything look good. If Nash posts crap, the site’s authority makes it very difficult to identify it.

Still, a reader could have worse complaints, and Nash, much like BDLG BLOG and Anonymous Works, uses his expertise to take some of the effort out of web-combing for readers. It may not look exactly like museum curating, but it certainly deserves 
the title.

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