Modern Art Notes Takes on Jerry Saltz’s Facebook Use

by Art Fag City on July 7, 2009 · 33 comments Events

Remedios Varo, Remedios Varo, Art Fag City
Remedios Varo, Spiral Transit, 1962

Modern Art Notes blogger Tyler Green laments Jerry Saltz’ move from traditional media outlets to Facebook as a venue for his “MoMA-and-gender campaign”.  In late May, Saltz published research via a status update revealing that only 4% of art work made by women artists is on display in MoMA’s 4th and 5th floor permanent sculpture and painting collection, sparking intense debate.  No critic has expressed a lack of support for increasing the representation of women in MoMA’s permanent collection, but Green believes that in choosing Facebook as a venue, Saltz chooses only to speak to insiders.  “It is because of his insiderhood that Saltz has been able to pursue the MoMA issue via places only accessible to, well, insiders,” writes the blogger.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but to assert that the problem with Facebook as a venue for debate is its cliquishness is to completely miss the point.  Sure, many of Saltz’s “friends” are art world professionals, but it seems unlikely that all 5,000 of them are the “insiders” Green seems to think they are.  Also, it’s not like the discussion board Seeing Out Loud is only available to a few elite.  Anyone can join the group.

The issue with using Facebook as a venue for conversation is that the software wasn’t designed for those purposes.  Linking to valuable points made in discussion threads is difficult, and multiple threads on the same topic are bound to occur.  And of course, we’re all relying on a free application to provide archive maintenance.  Users typically get what they pay for.

Green touches on none of this, explaining later on in his post why Saltz’s approach to the MoMA-gender issue makes him uncomfortable.

Once upon a time critics were eager to explain to non-art-ghetto audiences why the art and art-related subjects that were important to them should be important to other people, to people outside the art world. Saltz is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has significant outside-the-art-world credibility. He has either been unable to or he has chosen not to use that credibility to emphasize or elevate the importance of the arts in the broader culture.

But how has Saltz failed to explain why gender representation should be important?  Green doesn’t provide any citations, so I guess we should just take his word for it.

As I see it, Saltz is running the conversation in the same way one does on a blog: with the understanding that it’s an ongoing conversation thread people can follow. With that said, I wish Mr. Saltz would move some of this conversation to an actual blog.  Transitioning audiences is nerve-racking, but in the case of Saltz, fully necessary.  The discussions he generates simply won’t circulate the way they should if it’s behind Facebook’s walled garden. And despite the critic’s repeated claims of technological illiteracy and worries about sufficient resources, if my great-grandmother has figured out how to upload an image to the web, so can he.

Related: The latest correspondence in Jerry Saltz’ discussions with MoMA about gender representation. See also here.

  • Rita

    I think the *only* valid point Green seems to make is the insidery aspect. And even then…. it’s just frustrating when, for isntance, I read about this on AFC, and wanted to access it, read it. However, I tried befriending Saltz to no avail – and understandably so. Who want a zillion bozo strangers as your facebook friends??? I joined the group but the discussion didn’t seem to be there. I just felt a little disappointed I couldn’t access the comments everyone was talking about. It also seemed to me – correct me if wrong – that it was an organic discussion that just happened to grow on his fb page. Not like he purposely published a big critical article that was for “special” eyes only.

    Sooo, I’ve been relying on blogs for this kind of art news. It seems more and more, print venues aren’t publishing this stuff any way, so it’s up to alternative venues.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Rita

    I think the *only* valid point Green seems to make is the insidery aspect. And even then…. it’s just frustrating when, for isntance, I read about this on AFC, and wanted to access it, read it. However, I tried befriending Saltz to no avail – and understandably so. Who want a zillion bozo strangers as your facebook friends??? I joined the group but the discussion didn’t seem to be there. I just felt a little disappointed I couldn’t access the comments everyone was talking about. It also seemed to me – correct me if wrong – that it was an organic discussion that just happened to grow on his fb page. Not like he purposely published a big critical article that was for “special” eyes only.

    Sooo, I’ve been relying on blogs for this kind of art news. It seems more and more, print venues aren’t publishing this stuff any way, so it’s up to alternative venues.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Tyler Green

    Paddy,

    Thanks for reading the post.

    However, in focusing on the word ‘insider’ I think you’re missing what I was writing about: That Jerry has shared his MoMA campaign only with the art ghetto, that is, with a narrow audience instead of with the broadest possible audience.

    Also, I did not claim that Jerry “failed to explain why gender representation should be important.” I think he has smartly focused on gender discrepancies at MoMA and in commercial galleries.

  • Tyler Green

    Paddy,

    Thanks for reading the post.

    However, in focusing on the word ‘insider’ I think you’re missing what I was writing about: That Jerry has shared his MoMA campaign only with the art ghetto, that is, with a narrow audience instead of with the broadest possible audience.

    Also, I did not claim that Jerry “failed to explain why gender representation should be important.” I think he has smartly focused on gender discrepancies at MoMA and in commercial galleries.

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    This minute parsing of various new media outlets, a tendency that seems to originate in the blogosphere, is an insider discussion that I could do without. I’m not sure where it comes from, and it’s not the worst thing in the world, but for me the techie flavor of many blog entries creates an issue (and advocacy) that I find distracting from the larger subject of any specific blog.

    Green’s complaint, though, seems to me the result of mis-categorization. On these issues, Jerry Saltz is being an activist, and so couldn’t we understand his appeals being addressed not to insiders, but to a grassroots? If so, the advantage of Facebook over print media is its interactivity. (And, a less exclusive blog would have that advantage to a greater degree, so someone like Rita would be able to access it, presumably.)

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    This minute parsing of various new media outlets, a tendency that seems to originate in the blogosphere, is an insider discussion that I could do without. I’m not sure where it comes from, and it’s not the worst thing in the world, but for me the techie flavor of many blog entries creates an issue (and advocacy) that I find distracting from the larger subject of any specific blog.

    Green’s complaint, though, seems to me the result of mis-categorization. On these issues, Jerry Saltz is being an activist, and so couldn’t we understand his appeals being addressed not to insiders, but to a grassroots? If so, the advantage of Facebook over print media is its interactivity. (And, a less exclusive blog would have that advantage to a greater degree, so someone like Rita would be able to access it, presumably.)

  • http://www.lorenmunk.com James Kalm

    I think there are a couple of issues here. Tyler Green is a tech savvy pioneer in the art blogosphere. It’s his daily practice to write, post, and manage a blog. Jerry couldn’t even set up his own facebook account; a student had to do it for him. His online involvement is rapidly evolving through trial and error, who knows what shape it will take in the future. I’m also pretty sure his schedule hardly allows for the amount of time and effort running a blog properly can suck up.

    Second; although he’s written an almost annul screed on sexual bias in the art world, his activism regarding gender equity at MoMA may be a personal stance that he wishes to keep separate from his professional work and reputation as a critic. Attitudes towards all kinds of politics are in flux, but there’s a long standing disdain among classic art critics and some editors, for involvement or bias of any kind which violates the “disinterested” aesthetic. Maybe he wanted to keep this in the ghetto for the time being.

  • http://www.lorenmunk.com James Kalm

    I think there are a couple of issues here. Tyler Green is a tech savvy pioneer in the art blogosphere. It’s his daily practice to write, post, and manage a blog. Jerry couldn’t even set up his own facebook account; a student had to do it for him. His online involvement is rapidly evolving through trial and error, who knows what shape it will take in the future. I’m also pretty sure his schedule hardly allows for the amount of time and effort running a blog properly can suck up.

    Second; although he’s written an almost annul screed on sexual bias in the art world, his activism regarding gender equity at MoMA may be a personal stance that he wishes to keep separate from his professional work and reputation as a critic. Attitudes towards all kinds of politics are in flux, but there’s a long standing disdain among classic art critics and some editors, for involvement or bias of any kind which violates the “disinterested” aesthetic. Maybe he wanted to keep this in the ghetto for the time being.

  • http://ryanfitzer.com Ryan

    “Also, it’s not like the discussion board Seeing Out Loud is only available to a few elite. Anyone can join the group.”nnAnyone with a *facebook* account that is. Simply having an internet connection and a web browser won’t allow one to see the group as opposed to a blog like Tyler’s, which anyone with these tools can visit.nnThis is an important distinction.nnFacebook is a closed network of communication (not a bad thing of course). The only way to communicate with someone on facebook is to first have an account which presents barriers to entry (End User License Agreement, providing private info, etc.) that some people choose not to accept.nnFacebook is a valid choice for Jerry but it shouldn’t be confused with other open options that would be more inclusive.

  • http://ryanfitzer.com Ryan

    “Also, it’s not like the discussion board Seeing Out Loud is only available to a few elite. Anyone can join the group.”nnAnyone with a *facebook* account that is. Simply having an internet connection and a web browser won’t allow one to see the group as opposed to a blog like Tyler’s, which anyone with these tools can visit.nnThis is an important distinction.nnFacebook is a closed network of communication (not a bad thing of course). The only way to communicate with someone on facebook is to first have an account which presents barriers to entry (End User License Agreement, providing private info, etc.) that some people choose not to accept.nnFacebook is a valid choice for Jerry but it shouldn’t be confused with other open options that would be more inclusive.

  • http://ryanfitzer.com Ryan

    “Also, it’s not like the discussion board Seeing Out Loud is only available to a few elite. Anyone can join the group.”\n\nAnyone with a *facebook* account that is. Simply having an internet connection and a web browser won’t allow one to see the group as opposed to a blog like Tyler’s, which anyone with these tools can visit.\n\nThis is an important distinction.\n\nFacebook is a closed network of communication (not a bad thing of course). The only way to communicate with someone on facebook is to first have an account which presents barriers to entry (End User License Agreement, providing private info, etc.) that some people choose not to accept.\n\nFacebook is a valid choice for Jerry but it shouldn’t be confused with other open options that would be more inclusive.

  • Joe Berube

    Not to put too fine a point to it, but since the discussion happens within a facebook user’s page, everyone who is a ‘friend’ IS an insider. I cannot follow this story and I do have facebook. He may have 5000 friends, but he isn’t accepting all subscribers to his newsletter.

  • Joe Berube

    Not to put too fine a point to it, but since the discussion happens within a facebook user’s page, everyone who is a ‘friend’ IS an insider. I cannot follow this story and I do have facebook. He may have 5000 friends, but he isn’t accepting all subscribers to his newsletter.

  • greg.org

    I’d read Jerry’s actions as not just advocacy, but as mobilizing. If stoking a Facebook mob is what it takes to get MoMA’s curators to the table, fine. And if/when Jerry has something substantive to report from the process, he’ll go bigger with it. It’s not like NYMag would want to publish weekly updates of his crusade’s progress.

  • greg.org

    I’d read Jerry’s actions as not just advocacy, but as mobilizing. If stoking a Facebook mob is what it takes to get MoMA’s curators to the table, fine. And if/when Jerry has something substantive to report from the process, he’ll go bigger with it. It’s not like NYMag would want to publish weekly updates of his crusade’s progress.

  • greg.org

    I’d read Jerry’s actions as not just advocacy, but as mobilizing. If stoking a Facebook mob is what it takes to get MoMA’s curators to the table, fine. And if/when Jerry has something substantive to report from the process, he’ll go bigger with it. It’s not like NYMag would want to publish weekly updates of his crusade’s progress.

  • http://www.coagula.com coagula

    There is nobody in the art world EXCEPT insiders. Except maybe of course Tyler Green, pouting that someone has found a more efficient system of ball-busting the powers-that-be instead of just telling Christopher Knight to leak it Tyler.

  • http://www.coagula.com coagula

    There is nobody in the art world EXCEPT insiders. Except maybe of course Tyler Green, pouting that someone has found a more efficient system of ball-busting the powers-that-be instead of just telling Christopher Knight to leak it Tyler.

  • anon (and totally afraid of re

    Definitely Coagula’s clued into the Tyler Green agenda. Public criticism is good,Green seems to think, unless it’s directed at, well, him. Here in the “ghetto” (how stupid is that term?) we all wear many hats–because no one else cares enough to get involved. What of it?

  • anon (and totally afraid of retribution)

    Definitely Coagula’s clued into the Tyler Green agenda. Public criticism is good,Green seems to think, unless it’s directed at, well, him. Here in the “ghetto” (how stupid is that term?) we all wear many hats–because no one else cares enough to get involved. What of it?

  • http://heartasarena.blogspot.com/ Heart As Arena

    anon (and totally afraid of retribution):

    I just can’t imagine why Jerry Saltz wouldn’t want to start a blog.

  • http://heartasarena.blogspot.com/ Heart As Arena

    anon (and totally afraid of retribution):

    I just can’t imagine why Jerry Saltz wouldn’t want to start a blog.

  • Daniel

    Back several weeks ago when a lot of this started on Jerrys facebook page, I was a one of the 5,000 friends. Jerry had posted the Moma gender percentage figures to his status and people were commenting generously. The majority of comments were something like, “way to go Jerry” with only a few nay sayers in between, myself being one of them. Without giving you all the small details of the comments, after a few exchanges between myself, Jerry and other commenters, I was abruptly deleted as a friend by Jerry.
    So the moral of the story is, if Jerry finds comments on his page that are not rude, vulgar or inappropriate, but simply contradictory within the context of a discussion, he just gets rid of you. Through a process like this he can effectually create a large chorus of yes people as “friends”. I don’t know about you but this seems like a dangerous practice for a critic. I was shocked.

  • Daniel

    Back several weeks ago when a lot of this started on Jerrys facebook page, I was a one of the 5,000 friends. Jerry had posted the Moma gender percentage figures to his status and people were commenting generously. The majority of comments were something like, “way to go Jerry” with only a few nay sayers in between, myself being one of them. Without giving you all the small details of the comments, after a few exchanges between myself, Jerry and other commenters, I was abruptly deleted as a friend by Jerry.
    So the moral of the story is, if Jerry finds comments on his page that are not rude, vulgar or inappropriate, but simply contradictory within the context of a discussion, he just gets rid of you. Through a process like this he can effectually create a large chorus of yes people as “friends”. I don’t know about you but this seems like a dangerous practice for a critic. I was shocked.

  • http://chrisjagers.net cjagers

    @James Kalm: Trying to use FB as a blog is sucking up way more time than just using blogging tool. Most major writers (and grandmothers) do this, it is not cutting edge technology. I think Mr. Saltz is just getting bad advice.

  • http://chrisjagers.net cjagers

    @James Kalm: Trying to use FB as a blog is sucking up way more time than just using blogging tool. Most major writers (and grandmothers) do this, it is not cutting edge technology. I think Mr. Saltz is just getting bad advice.

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia

    In response to Daniel’s note about Jerry Saltz deleting people who do not agree with his statement: That’s the most dangerous thing that can happen to a controversial discussion, whether it happens on a blog or Facebook. It kills insightful conversation, and makes it seem like he doesn’t actually want to hear what people say. It’s like selecting quotes for a press release–only positive, self-affirming quotes will be included. If he didn’t want people to talk back, he shouldn’t have posted that as a status message at all–that is the whole point of blogging and all this social media stuff.

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia

    In response to Daniel’s note about Jerry Saltz deleting people who do not agree with his statement: That’s the most dangerous thing that can happen to a controversial discussion, whether it happens on a blog or Facebook. It kills insightful conversation, and makes it seem like he doesn’t actually want to hear what people say. It’s like selecting quotes for a press release–only positive, self-affirming quotes will be included. If he didn’t want people to talk back, he shouldn’t have posted that as a status message at all–that is the whole point of blogging and all this social media stuff.

  • Art Fag City

    @Alicia and Daniel: I’ve heard a few of those stories recently visa vi Saltz, and while I’m sure they are true, my own experience with less than half the number of friends Saltz has, is that it’s simply too time consuming to remove every friend who says something annoying or contrary. If I were to guess, I’d say some people were probably removed unnecessarily, while others are there who arguably shouldn’t be. Friend management is fallible.

    @cjagers. I agree.

    @anon. Re: the stupidity of the term art ghetto. Agreed!

  • Art Fag City

    @Alicia and Daniel: I’ve heard a few of those stories recently visa vi Saltz, and while I’m sure they are true, my own experience with less than half the number of friends Saltz has, is that it’s simply too time consuming to remove every friend who says something annoying or contrary. If I were to guess, I’d say some people were probably removed unnecessarily, while others are there who arguably shouldn’t be. Friend management is fallible.

    @cjagers. I agree.

    @anon. Re: the stupidity of the term art ghetto. Agreed!

  • Art Fag City

    @Alicia and Daniel: I’ve heard a few of those stories recently visa vi Saltz, and while I’m sure they are true, my own experience with less than half the number of friends Saltz has, is that it’s simply too time consuming to remove every friend who says something annoying or contrary. If I were to guess, I’d say some people were probably removed unnecessarily, while others are there who arguably shouldn’t be. Friend management is fallible.

    @cjagers. I agree.

    @anon. Re: the stupidity of the term art ghetto. Agreed!

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia

    @artfagcity i agree that friend management is fallible. It would be interesting to get specifics of who he deleted.

  • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia

    @artfagcity i agree that friend management is fallible. It would be interesting to get specifics of who he deleted.

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