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GO is a
community-curated open studio project.

Feb 20

Just a quick reminder that GO is closing this week. If you haven’t had a chance to see the exhibition, you have until Sunday, February 24 before the show comes down. Also, we recently received some great press from the Wall Street Journal; the article details the entire process from start to finish, which makes it a fitting end. Thank you for taking part in GO; whether you were an artist, a voter, or a volunteer — it wouldn’t have happened without your support and enthusiasm!

Jan 03

Tell us in the comments of this post… do you think community curation has any place on the walls of a museum? Should museums experiment with their models? The New York Times reviews GO.  

Crowdsourced Exhibition Looks Kind of Familiar

MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Much as “green” became a corporate buzzword in the last few years, connoting an eco-friendly ethos among the business set, “community” is now a favorite of the nonprofit world. But if oil companies could be suspected of not being quite as green as their advertising claims, cultural institutions claiming to act on behalf of the community can raise similar alarms. A cynical thought, perhaps, but appropriate when considering “Go: a community-curated open studio project” at the Brooklyn Museum.

“Go” was inspired, according to the publicity materials, by two precedents: ArtPrize, an art competition based in Grand Rapids, Mich., that bills itself as the world’s largest and that awards money to artists based on votes by “the public” (a separate prize is determined by a jury of “leading art experts”); and the annual open-studios programs, in which artists invite the public into their work spaces, which have sprouted up somewhat organically in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Dumbo, Gowanus, Red Hook and Bushwick.

The Brooklyn Museum took the open-studios model and used it to create a contest in which the award was a spot in “Go,” the group exhibition now on view. More than 1,800 artists working all over the borough registered with the museum in May, and for two days in September visitors went out to their studios and then, if they had visited at least five, were eligible to vote for three online. The 10 artists with the largest number of votes were then whittled down to five by Sharon Matt Atkins and Eugenie Tsai, curators at the Brooklyn Museum.

And the results? Less than stellar, unfortunately. The winners are an unexciting bunch; in most spheres of contemporary art they would be considered student artists because their work relies so heavily on earlier precedents. It is certainly not on par with the contemporary work the Brooklyn Museum generally exhibits.

Yeon Ji-yoo, a young South Korean-born artist, makes collages and sculptures that are very much in the vein of ’90s installation art and that recall the uncanny sculptures of Petah CoyneGabrielle Watson’s figurative paintings feature distorted figures in vibrant hues that are reminiscent of Faith RinggoldKatherine Bernhardt and the German Expressionists.

Adrian Coleman’s small, vaguely edgy scenes of Brooklyn are painted in watercolor and feel very similar to a recent raft of photo-based works by watercolorists like Tim GardnerOliver Jeffers makes gimmicky paintings, occasionally borrowing the midcentury Situationist technique of détournement — that is, painting on found paintings in an act of creative disfiguring — but to much less subversive effect than the master of the form, Asger Jorn. Naomi Safran-Hon, born in Israel, combines inkjet prints on canvas with cement pressed through lace in trompe l’oeil works that recall Valerie Hegarty’s haunting painting-sculptures.

Video interviews accompanying the works personalize the experience of the art but also underscore that most artists today are very good (sometimes best) at describing what their work is “about.” The artists all seem to love Brooklyn, but many visitors to this exhibition will know immediately that “Go” has not unearthed any hidden masters of the borough.

So what happened?

Doing a bit of my own crowdsourcing, I asked a number of artists and visitors who had participated in the open studios for their impressions of the project and found that many had conflicting feelings. On the one hand, the open studios offered an avenue for showing artists’ work, and some cases led to visits from members of their communities who hadn’t known there were artists working right across the street or in their buildings. But many felt the voting system was flawed: confined to a demographic adept at using communications technology and weighted in favor of artists who were good at self-promotion and could potentially game the system by soliciting votes.

“Go” is clearly not an accurate representation of the richness of art in Brooklyn and may not reflect the true interests and tastes of the wider community there, either. But it does raise the always interesting question of who should choose what appears in museums and what constitutes “great” art.

Curators generally assume this role, although history shows that the most qualified experts are often artists themselves. One example is the 1913 Armory Show, which was organized by artists to show the public the breadth and excitement of modern art. As the centennial of this historic show is observed in coming months, it will offer another model and precedent to consider.

Source NYT Jan 2, 2013

Dec 03

GO Town Hall Conversation This Thursday

We were thrilled to see so many people turnout Saturday night for the opening of GO. The opening was a lively celebration of our five featured artists, and all who participated along the way.

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You have heard from Shelley and me on many key issues around GO, and many of you have shared important feedback with us. Now we hope you’ll join us in person at the Brooklyn Museum this Thursday at 7:00pm for a GO Town Hall conversation. Shelley and I will be joined by project staff, artists, and voter participants for a public dialogue about GO’s successes and challenges. Kevin Stayton, Chief Curator at the Brooklyn Museum, will moderate the program.
We encourage active audience participation throughout the evening with the following people helping to spark our dialogue:

  • Sharon Butler, GO participating artist and publisher of Two Coats of Paint
  • Victoria Cho, GO Crown Heights Neighborhood Coordinator
  • Brian Dupont, Brooklyn-based artist and author of Artist’s Texts
  • Alice Griffiths, GO voter, freelance writer, and Brooklyn Museum Member
  • Naomi Safran-Hon, GO Featured Artist
  • Gabrielle Watson, GO Featured Artist  

We aim to explore the project from multiple perspectives, and to address key issues such as community and competition, along with others that recurred frequently in the feedback. Whether you participated in GO or not, we want to hear from you. 

We hope to see you Thursday.

Nov 29

Join us in Celebrating GO

It’s hard to believe we are here after dozens of artist and voter meetups throughout the summer; an exhilarating open studio weekend that resulted in 147,000 studio visits; nominations and curator studio visits, and a whirlwind installation schedule…our exhibition opens Saturday night!

GO Featured Artist, Yeon Ji Yoo, installs her work in the exhibition.

You may have noticed that we’re opening GO on a Target First Saturday. Given the democratic nature of the project, we thought this would be a fitting way to get the show off to the right start.  For this month’s programming, our education team worked with GO’s Neighborhood Coordinators to pull together an evening full of events showcasing all the great things going on in Brooklyn—from Coney Island to Bushwick!  It’s going to be an exciting night with performances from Underground System Afrobeat, Maya Azucena, AVAN LAVA, L.O.U.D. (League of Unreal Dancing), and Parachute: The Coney Island Performance Festival.  Our GO Featured Artists—Adrian Coleman, Oliver Jeffers, Naomi Safran-Hon, Gabrielle Watson, and Yeon Ji Yoo—will be giving pop-up talks next to their works starting at 8pm (get in line early for free tickets, which will be distributed from the visitor center at 7pm). There’s more, too, so check out the full schedule.  Best of all, Target First Saturday is free!

During the evening, we’ll be hosting a special event for Members who’ve taken part in GO. You’ll find us saying hello to our awesome voters and making sure they get their GO swag.  Also, our friends from NYCHA will be joining us as our educators lead tours through the installation for housing residents.

Sharon and I have been fortunate enough to meet many of you throughout this process and to read and learn from your valuable feedback; we are very proud of what we’ve accomplished together and we hope that we’ll see you again on Saturday night to celebrate GO Brooklyn.

Nov 28

Installation continues in the gallery today!

Making Choices to Create an Exhibition

Once we had our group of the ten most nominated artists, Eugenie and I set out on our part of the collaboration. We visited the artists independently without preconceived ideas about the work we would see or the show it would result in. We wanted the art we would encounter in the in the studios to determine the shape of the final exhibition.

In the studio with Naomi Safran-Hon.

The nominations from the community offered a remarkably broad range of artists and practices. We were struck by the different art worlds represented by the nominated artists. Although painting prevailed, we saw work representing a range of media styles, and subjects. We also appreciated that the artists ranged from the self-taught to the academically trained, and that some are full-time artists while others create their art alongside other careers.

Our challenge was to take this array of options and to think about the show as an entity, including its cohesiveness and scale. We wanted to select a group of artists who would represent the range of those nominated, and the artistic spectrum of those working in Brooklyn. Ultimately we strove to present a strong cohesive exhibition that reflected the artistic choices that reflected the democratic process of GO.

As we deliberated and strategized, we recognized that difficult choices needed to be made. We decided to chose a group of artists that represented the breadth of practices we had seen in the studios and a selection of several works by each artist to convey a sense of depth. Given the size of the mezzanine gallery we had at our disposal, this meant that the group of 10 nominees had to be pared down to fewer finalists.

Eugenie and I taking a look at the work of Naomi Safran-Hon during the installation of GO in the Brooklyn Museum mezzanine gallery.

As with all exhibitions initially everything seems possible until the moment for difficult decisions arrives. We hope that everyone who has engaged in this project will come to see the final exhibition. As we install the show this week, we will begin to see the relationship between the individual works by each artist as well as the conversation between the different artistic voices in the gallery. The distinctive space of the mezzanine gallery presents unique opportunities for the installation and exhibition design, including the placement of informational texts and the inclusion of a community component to reflect the open studio weekend and the tremendous activity that led us to this installation.

Nov 27

Artist Yeon Ji Yoo joined us today to install her work in the gallery. 

Creating a Framework to Collaborate with the Public

You have been following us from the 1708 studios to 9,457 nominations to 10 nominees to the 5 featured artists. Let’s take a look at how we got here.

Over the past year and a half, we discussed many ways to approach the exhibition, including whether or not the exhibition was necessary. In the process, we considered various models. For instance, we have already mentioned the inspiration provided by ArtPrize and our interest in modifying their framework to see work within the context of the studio and to require voters to nominate fewer artists. We also looked at the Walker Art Center’s 50/50: Audience and Experts Curate the Paper Collection, an exhibition that invited the public to vote on a selection of images on a kiosk at the museum and online, while their chief curator chose works by artists represented in depth in the museum collection. The resulting selections were hung in two sections, sparking “a range of questions about the dynamics between ‘audience’ and ‘expert,’ or between curatorial practice and so-called ‘mass taste.’” By contrast, the Hammer’s new Mohn Prize awardee was chosen by public vote from the museum’s Made in L.A. biennial exhibition. The experts, a jury of curators, winnowed the pool from the 60 exhibiting artists to 5 before inviting the public to vote. This model shifts the weight of decision making toward the experts. We also considered our own past projects, particularly Click! A Crowd-Curated ExhibitionWhile Click!, a great success, has served as a model for many subsequent projects elsewhere, it focused on using the internet as a tool and the photographs, though Brooklyn-themed, were judged online and in isolation.  During GO, we wanted to shift the focus more toward seeing a body of work in the studio with the artist present while creating an awareness of the art-making taking place in various communities throughout Brooklyn.

Installation of GO started on Monday in our Mezzanine gallery on the second floor of the Museum.

Since the main objective of GO was to connect the community with the vast number of artists working in their neighborhoods, the process included meeting and talking to artists face-to-face as well as scores of opportunities to encounter art in the flesh, so to speak. We invited the public into artists’ studios and asked it to nominate artists, creating the shortlist of artists for me and Eugenie Tsai to visit and select for the show, creating a collaboration between members of the community and the museum curators.

As always, practical issues arise. With exhibitions, the issue is always one of available space during the preferred period of time. We wanted the exhibition to follow the open studio weekend as quickly as possible and estimated that the entire process would take about three months, putting the opening in early December. We also felt strongly that unveiling the show on a First Saturday would be in keeping with the community-spirited character of the show. We felt now was the right time with Brooklyn experiencing such a great renaissance and with such widespread enthusiasm for the incredible creativity in the borough.

More to come this week!

Nov 26

GO installation began in the gallery today.

Nov 15

Our GO Featured Artists

Since our announcement of our top ten nominated artists in late September, Eugenie Tsai (John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art) and I have visited their studios in Brooklyn. We decided to each individually meet with the artists, and then discuss our responses. As we both anticipated, we had some tough decisions to make, and it took us numerous meetings to sort it out. We had many strong artists from which to chose, but we needed to think about the overall show, its cohesiveness, and its scale. So, without further ado, the GO exhibition will feature:

  • Adrian Coleman, Fort Greene, painting
  • Oliver Jeffers, Boerum Hill, painting, illustration, and drawing
  • Naomi Safran-Hon, Prospect Heights, painting
  • Gabrielle Watson, Crown Heights, painting
  • Yeon Ji Yoo, Red Hook, mixed media sculpture

We will be discussing our choices, challenges with the show, and the installation process more in the next couple of weeks. For now, we have been focused on compiling the checklist and working with our designer, registrar, and editorial staff to plan the exhibition, gather the works, and prepare the written materials to accompany the show.

We hope you’ll continue to join us as we move towards the exhibition, which opens December 1 as a celebration of not only these artists, but all the artists and participants that made GO such a great success.

Nov 14

GO Nominated Artist: Adrian Coleman

Nov 13

GO Nominated Artist: Prune Nourry

GO Nominated Artist: Kerry Law

Nov 09

GO Nominated Artist: Gabrielle Watson

Nov 08

GO Nominated Artist: Aleksander Betko