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[Eyebeam Presents] #ArtsTech: Privacy/Identity

Copied and pasted (a bit remixed) from here:

[Eyebeam Presents] #ArtsTech: Privacy/Identity

In the age of “transparency” and big data, questions around privacy and identity loom large. While some people want to create what are essentially “driver’s licenses for the web” that will link back to your personal identity wherever you go online (i.e. Google+, Facebook profiles), others warn of the costs associated with giving up our right to anonymity and what this might mean for free speech and censorship online. This is a BIG topic that affects all of us as denizens of the web, and in this meetup we’ll merely be skimming the surface. Our panel of speakers will present a variety of perspectives on these issues to help get the conversation started.

  • Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM

  • EYEBEAM | 540 W 21st St, New York, NY (map)

  • Price: $10.00/per person | Refund policy

  • Schedule:

    7:00pm – Doors. Mingling over wine and snacks provided by Tumblr

    7:30-8:45pm – Presentations and short panel discussion with the speakers

    8:30-10:00pm – Conversation continues over wine


    Museum Nerd will be giving an anonymous presentation via Skype. In lieu of a bio, he has provided us with the following crowdsourced descriptions of himself:

    “no physical description, no fixed address, no discernible motive, digs James Turrell” – @MDammit

    “social web’s most-extensive aggregator of museum exhibitions and events.” – @zoebfox

    “A source for museum-related flâneur love and general feel good art vibrations in 140 characters or less.” – @hragv

    “Museum Nerd is a nerd. A nerd of museums and the sort.” An IRL talk? Will you be wearing a mask? – @art21

    “…faster than a speeding bullet…” – @theBoBartlett

    “@museumnerd is a cultural Twitter icon (Twicon) who has been getting people interested in museums for the past [insert number] years”- @AlizaySteinberg

    “expert in collections at many museums you’ve never heard of” – @resuitener

    Since March 2010, Museum Nerd has checked in at museums 247 times on Foursquare.

    Cole Stryker is a freelance writer and media strategist based in New York City. He is the author of Hacking the Future: Privacy, Identity, and Anonymity on the Web (out this month from The Overlook Press), as well as Epic Win for Anonymous, the first book to explore the underground Internet meme culture factory called 4chan, and Anonymous, the hacktivist collective it spawned. His writing has appeared in SalonViceThe New York ObserverThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. More at

    Kyle McDonald is a media artist who works with code, with a background in philosophy and computer science. He creates intricate systems with playful realizations, sharing the source and challenging others to create and contribute. Kyle is a regular collaborator on arts-engineering initiatives such as openFrameworks, having developed a number of extensions which provide connectivity to powerful image processing and computer vision libraries. For the past few years, Kyle has applied these techniques to problems in 3D sensing, for interaction and visualization, starting with structured light techniques, and later the Kinect. Kyle’s work ranges from hyper-formal glitch experiments to tactical and interrogative installations and performance. He was recently Guest Researcher in residence at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan, and is currently adjunct professor at ITP.

Museum Press Release Clearing House on Tumblr

I started a new Tumblr to help museums get the word out about exhibits and new hires by posting their press releases in a place where interested people can find them through tagging and searching, then share them with their networks.

Just click the “submit” button, cut & paste, and voila!


Thanks, @museumtweets, for helping with the admin.

The Best Art Exhibits of 2011* – Part 1

[Part 2 (of 3) now available here.]

When asked by Artlog to come up with my 3 or 4 best exhibits of 2011, I balked a bit, knowing that there was no way I’d be able to remember to hundreds of shows I saw this year. Luckily my Foursquare “history” page acts as a handy diary of everywhere I went this year. Scrolling through all the checkins helped jog my memory. Also a quick look at Museum webpages to fill in the blanks. All photos are my own.

1. Curator Eric Doeringer’sI Like the Art World and the Art World Likes Me at EFA Studios (NYC)

2.The Making of Americans at The James Gallery, CUNY Graduate Center (NYC)
3.Bye Bye Kittyat Japan Society (NYC)

4. Alpine Desire at Austrian Cultural Forum (NYC)

5. Judith Linhares at Edward Thorp Gallery (NYC)
6. Hans Op de Beeck at Hirshhorn (Washington, D.C.)
7. R. Crumb at Society of Illustrators Museum (NYC)

8. Tracing the Unseen Borderat La Mama Galleria (NYC)
9. “Bernard Faucon: The Most Beautiful Day of My Youth  New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, LA)
10. Birney Imes at Ogden Museum of Art (New Orleans, LA)
11. Get on the Block at Camel Art Space (Brooklyn)

12. Curator Jason Bailer Losh’s Chinese Take Out at Art in General and nearby Chinese Restaurants (NYC)
13. “George Condo: Mental States” at New Museum (NYC)
14. “The Great Upheaval: Modern Art from the Guggenheim Collection, 1910–1918” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (NYC)

15. Francis Alys at MoMA PS1 (Long Island City)
16. Richard Serra Drawing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) And… Yes… of course Alexander McQueen at the Met too.
17. Breaking Ground: The Whitney’s Founding Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC)

18. The ‘S’ Files at El Museo del Barrio and partner galleries BRIC Rotunda, Lehman College Art Gallery

Special Mention: Public Art Fund’s “Total Recall” in Brooklyn’s Metrotech which opened in 2010, but was up for most of 2011. These Matt Sheridan Smith’s inflatable sculptures were a great source of delight as one wondered if they’d by tumescent or not upon each visit.

Here in Part 1, I’m up through June, 2011 on Foursquare and twitpics. Part 2 (coming soon) will include July-December, anything I missed here, and Museum Nerd’s “NYC Art Exhibit of the Year.”

*This list is highly personal and only includes shows I actually visited. They are almost all museum and nonprofit-art-space exhibits from 2011 listed in chronological order of my first visit. I went to many of them more than once. I left out commercial gallery shows unless there was some special reason to include them. In the case of Judith Linhares, it was pure awesomeness and underknownness.

The Walker’s New Website Is An Earthshaking Game Changer

Note: A beautifully illustrated version of this post is now on Artlog here.

The Walker Art Center’s new website,, launched December 1, represents the most forward-thinking best practices in the museum field today. If you have even the slightest interest in contemporary art and culture, you’ll want to bookmark the website regardless of whether you live in Minneapolis, Minnetonka, or Mumbai. Before I jump into the specifics of the site, let’s take a little look at how a medium-sized museum in the middle of a great, but relatively remote, city has leapt (in my estimation) to the absolute forefront of the entire museum field.

Women Directors with Cojones

Kathy Halbreich, former Walker Director looking bad ass.

The Walker Art Center had long been on my radar before I’d even visited. This image of former director Kathy Halbreich sporting a bad-ass leather jacket became iconic in my mind as the image of a director who directs. Toward the end of her 16+ years at the Walker, Halbreich led the museum through a major renovation that brought it a lot of attention and press. Halbreich left the museum at the height of this publicity to join MoMA as an associate director where she’s unfortunately a bit less visible.

On the Walker’s blog, in an August 2007 farewell letter to Halbreich, Paul Schmelzer (who’s the editor of the new website*) cited that she had implemented, “a new Walker mission statement that emphasizes the engagement of both artists and audiences and a deeper understanding of society on individual, community, and global levels.” This legacy lives on in another bad-ass woman.


Contrary to what science might lead you to believe, the current Walker director, Olga Viso, has bigger balls than any other director out there! She’s decentralized power in a move that many museum higher-ups would be terrified of trying. A lot of top museums are still clinging to their authority, not just about the art that they collect and show, but in their implicit field of expertise. This is reflected on websites that don’t allow comments and interactions from outsiders aside from blogs buried several clicks off the home page.

The Walker Gains Power by Yielding Power

The secret weapon here is that this move to include content from unaffiliated sources on the Walker’s website will actually give the Walker more—and more lasting—power, as the “Idea Hub” Olga Viso describes positions the Walker as the locus of the smartest discourse about the content areas that are central to its mission.

This Is the Future of Museums

Of course actually seeing the art in person is an irreplaceable experience. No one, (except for some fear-mongering, recalcitrant, reactionary higher-ups and board members), is suggesting that a strong institutional web presence will replace the experience of going to see artworks in person. But many completely reasonable museum people still do ask the question, “Will your tweets get us more visitors?”

Walker’s website suggests a future in which visitorship is not indisputably the most important thing. Many funders still need to catch up to the idea that the museum can serve members of the public without ever having them walk through the doors of the “bricks and mortar” museum. Before you cry foul… I know that many museums directors who may appear to be resting on their laurels where the web is concerned, are actually hampered by misinformed funders who aren’t comfortable supporting the most visionary projects.

Folks are agreeing that the Walker’s new website is a “game changer” for the following reasons:

  • It is the first major museum website with an editorial focus.
  • It is the first major museum website to feature previews of articles from nonaffiliated sources on their home page. See the section: “Art News from Elsewhere”
  • The articles include pieces from disparate sources including lesser-known blogs like Hyperallergic (for which I’ve written the occasional piece) right there next to The New York Times. 

Taking a Page from the “Start-up” Playbook: The Walker Pivots

The Walker has made a power move. They’ve “pivoted,” exchanging one set of advantages for a different set. Let me explain. The Walker has long been seen as an important place for contemporary art. They’ve staged groundbreaking exhibitions that have traveled far and wide. They’ve also had a rich programming history.

Up until now, on their website and elsewhere, what the Walker was doing was always central and was broadcast outward to spark new conversations about the art and ideas around it. This is the model that most museums follow on the web. While the Walker will no doubt continue to do these things, they are the first major museum to see the future. Museums no longer need to think of their stakeholders as the people who come through the door. The Walker has positioned themselves at the center of the global conversation about contemporary art. By placing content of others (as well as excellent editorial content of their own) right there on their homepage, they’ve created a website you want to go to if you have any interest in contemporary art regardless of whether you’ll ever visit the museum.


They’re not just positioning themselves as an arbiter of taste (the connoisseurship thing has long been in every art museum’s bailiwick): the Walker is also placing themselves at the center of the conversation that their mission is all about.

I’ve long been saying that museums need to realize they can directly fulfill their missions (especially the educational aspect of those missions) through social media. Museums have often been very slow to catch on to this and only certain places, exemplified by SFMOMA and Brooklyn Museum, have been using social media in this manner and not primarily for marketing. We all read those marketing tweets all the time and if you’re not in the city, why the heck do you want to know that members get a special discount in the gift shop when they visit the museum?!

Now I see a model for best practices for using the museum website to directly fulfill its mission, but for a global audience and a globally, digitally connected constituency. I imagine it won’t be long before Walker Art Center starts seeing donations from people who’ve never visited the museum and have no immediate plans to do so.

*Paul asked me to change the original language which misstated that he “spearheaded” the new website. Paul’s modest. He went on in the email to say, “This isn’t really true. The Walker’s new media team has been working on this for a long time, and I was just brought on in mid-September, so I can’t take credit for the design. I don’t really design stuff, as my blog shows!

Pictures of Pictures: A Response to Edward Winkleman’s “What Has Art Become to Us?”

Edward Winkleman’s “What Has Art Become to Us?” blog post today addressed two current trends in the way the public interacts with art. The first is a tendency to see art as an investment commodity more stable than gold, and the second is the tendency for people to take digital photos of the art they’re looking at. I’m more interested in the latter trend and in a particular distinction Winkleman makes between art viewing venues. He suggests that people are more likely to photograph art in museums than in galleries. He also considers this to be a kind of art viewing “via a digital filter.” He also suggests that museum environments sometimes have qualities similar to amusement venues, qualities that might contribute to this as a preferred way of art viewing for museum visitors.

I snapped this photo of a visitor snapping a photo at MoMA for the purpose of showing people that the painting is actually much smaller than the reproduction they saw in all of their friends' college dorm rooms.

While I’m ambivalent (agree in some cases, not in others) about Winkleman’s observations about museum environments, I’m not convinced that one kind of viewing supplants another. I may take  pictures for reference and/or sharing, (which I’ve certainly done at galleries and countless museums) but would never consider that experience as a replacement for longer, considered looking without a digital device involved. I do agree that this looking at a tiny digital version of what is in front of you can in fact be a way of viewing art. Sometimes, the digital filter, or more so, framing an image of a work of art (especially a three-dimensional work), may actually add to one’s understanding of the artwork. This could, of course, only happen if there is a significant amount of time spent actually looking directly at the work of art as well.

Winkleman references Roberta Smith’s September 4th, “When the Camera Takes Over for the Eye” piece in the New York Times. Smith acknowledges that the omnipresence of cameras at the Venice Biennale can be read as a dismaying sign of superficial experiences, but also notes that:

…a photograph of a person photographing an artist’s photograph of herself playing a role is a few layers of an onion, maybe the kind to be found only among picture-takers at an exhibition.

Art fairs may be the most photographed art venues of all. Perhaps fair-goers wander through them as digital collectors, capturing art that they aren’t likely able to purchase. Winkleman likely has more considered insights into why that may be the case.

I am interested in thinking more about why more people take pictures at museums than at galleries. It seems like it should be the other way around if photos were to be usually used primarily as a sort of note taking which is my oft-used defense. Since large art museums are likely to have an online image of what a visitor deems to be a photo-op worthy artwork, why bother snapping your own crummy camera phone version?  If people actually do take photos more often in museums (which I agree seems to be the case) this suggests to me that people most frequently snap shots of paintings as a sort of “capturing” of their experience. What’s dismaying is if what’s being captured is an empty experience that didn’t include an actual considered sensory intake of the artwork itself.

I know that I do go back to pore over photos I’ve taken of art shows (regardless of the type of venue) to remind myself of what I’ve seen, but I also use my photos to show others art that I’ve seen and been affected by. I also admit to deriving a great deal of satisfaction from sharing photos of art as I’m seeing it via twitter. I imagine that if you are reading this, you’ve likely seen a twitpic or two of mine. I’m not interested in sharing the image as a trophy proving I’ve been there and seen an artwork, but rather because I relish the feedback I get from people who can enhance my knowledge of what I’m looking at. While I like getting comments like, “Awesome painting,” I’m driven by comments like @Ada_Lio‘s recent, “You find the most obscure museums! Never heard of @TheAldrich. Exhibitions sound interesting. Thanks for tweeting about them.”

I tend to post photos of works which interest me with the intent to share them with people who may never make it to see them, but even more so as though I’m sharing a tantalizing blurb from a novel I hope you’ll read yourself. I earnestly hope that sharing a quick snap of a work of art might inspire one to go see a museum exhibit or a gallery show. That’s why I’m taking pictures of pictures. Why are you doing it?

Twitter Following vs. Visitorship for 50 NYC Museums – A Museum Nerd Infographic

Font size corresponds to the ratio of twitter followers to museum visitors. Museums are listed in order of fewest to most visitors. (Click to expand.) Special thanks to my friends at the Official Museum Directory.

Nerdy Blog Stats – 2010 in Review (Auto-generated by the good people at WordPress)

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,000 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 8 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 10 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 15th with 328 views. The most popular post that day was Brooklyn Museum Visitorship on the Rise Where it Counts: Some New York Times Readers Are Missing the Point.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for museum nerd, brooklyn museum, mexican museum san francisco, brooklyn museum visitors, and museumnerd.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Brooklyn Museum Visitorship on the Rise Where it Counts: Some New York Times Readers Are Missing the Point June 2010


#CloughMustGo Explained December 2010


Yorba Named Director of SF’s Mexican Museum August 2010


About the Nerd January 2010


Press for the Nerd March 2010
1 comment

#CloughMustGo Explained

Recently an issue has caused me such personal anguish and sadness that I felt I had to step over an invisible line I’d drawn for myself. As @museumnerd on twitter and elsewhere, I have heretofore avoided politics. Recently something occured which truly horrified me and forced me to cross that line.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough decided to remove David Wojnarovicz’s video “Fire In My Belly,” (which is about what it felt like for the artist to be dying of AIDS), from the exhibit “Hide/Seek” at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. This occured because two Congresspeople, prompted largely by a group called the Catholic League (not affiliated with the Catholic Church), which also believes that “Funding Museums Is Class Descrimination,” threatened to cease funding the Smithsonian if they didn’t close the show down. This decision reinforces bigotry and takes action on the threats of severely misguided people who have no idea how much museums benefit some of the poorest school children throughout the U.S. among so many others. 

The action I have taken in protest is to start a hashtag on twitter to symbolize my feelings to the 33,000+ people who I am extremely lucky to have as an audience. These are the exact people who I hope to energize because I know they ALL know how important museums are, not just to poor children, but to our amazing diverse communities all over the country.

The hastag I created is #CloughMustGo. It represents my feeling that Wayne Clough, the de facto director of the Smithsonian Institution (which I love and grew up visiting frequently), should step down because his decision was an aggregious error which has far-reaching repercussions and suggests that censorship is a solution to bullying. 

I recognize it seems very extreme, and that Wayne Clough is in most respects an admirable man, but because he has accepted responsibility for the decision, I think our push for change must be directed at the person directly responsible.

I feel terrible for the Smithsonian staffers, especially at National Portrait Gallery (and now at Cooper Hewitt who will have hundreds of protesters yelling at them with anger). They are not responsible. I think more pin-pointed political move is to focus the protest on the person who has claimed responsibility, but I will still march.

I admire Clough for taking the responsibility of the decision on himself, but our outcry needs a strong focused statement that rejects leadership which reinforces the warped viewpoint of an organization (The Catholic League) which says, “all public monies for the arts should cease.”

I wish that I had more time to write on this more eloquently. I have been very lucky to have had the ear of the brilliant Nancy Proctor, Head of Mobile Strategy & Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution, who had written the following on Linked In:

I am deeply disappointed by the decision to remove the video from the exhibition. I am also embarrassed and disturbed by the treatment of the protesters in this video by SI guards:

Handcuffing them and banning them from SI for life is not the right answer. An opportunity to have a substantive conversation about the issues raised by the exhibition and the complaints about it has been missed. We should have been using this debate to build our communities, not cull them.

I asked Nancy what she thought of #CloughMustGo and she expressed the following objections to me in an email and agreed to let me quote her.

Although I disagree with Dr Clough’s decision and NPG’s affirmation of it (not to mention the treatment of the protesters in the museum shown in that distressing video), I don’t agree that Dr Clough should be removed from his post because of it. That feels to me like an act not unlike the decision to remove the video from the exhibition, and “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” I don’t think the response to contentious events and topics should be to remove, censor, switch off, shut down, or otherwise silence parties to the debate. Rather, as I indicated in my post to the MAAM group, I’d like to see us courageously and wholeheartedly join the conversation, with open minds and ears, and be willing to listen as much as we talk. I am not so naïve as to think that all we need is a good chat and we’ll walk away as friends. On the contrary, I suspect some differences of opinion are irreconcilable. But if we have at least surfaced all points of view fully, we can map the scope of the issues and perhaps approach the topic better informed and more sensitive to the full context of the conversation, so as to engage in it more productively in future. And maybe, with time, we’ll evolve into better human beings who can find ways to work together rather than issue ultimatums and cut off bits of one another, be that funding or leadership.

In that spirit, I am glad that you are taking steps to express your views on this critically important issue, and commend you for encouraging the conversation more broadly. I would like to see the Smithsonian do the same through town hall meetings and other events on the exhibition, the artwork, and the questions of censorship, control and funding for the arts that the protest has raised. There is a great opportunity here to engage with crucial topics for both the arts and, as you say, civil rights. I hope we don’t shut the door to it.

I respect Nancy’s opinion, but still feel #CloughMustGo is a non-hysterical, considered political move. Unfortunately, politics is very broad brush. You ask for something big to get something small (like putting a video back into an exhibit).

I also had intelligent, considered, detracting feedback for from Koven J. Smith on his blog:

I am all for debate. I am all for subtlety and nuance, but I also have some inkling of how politics works and do feel strongly that we should only “attack” those who are directly responsible for what we are outraged by.

I apologize for the very rough nature of this post and if I find the time I will come back and clean it up, but timing is everything right now.

If you are of like mind or just want to protest the removal of Wojnarowicz’s video, please come to the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday at 1pm to march with us to Cooper Hewitt (a Smithsonian museum), an act which is meant to be symbolic and not to express anger at any of the great Smithsonian staff (except Wayne Clough). 

MiniReview: Lichtenstein at Morgan Library

Roy Lichtenstein, I Know How You Must Feel, Brad!, 1963, graphite pencil, pochoir, and lithographic rubbing crayon. Private Collection. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Photography: Schecter Lee, 2009.

This exhibit has the power to win over Lichtenstein skeptics–a fun show, but also a serious one. Morgan pairs the comics and advertisements that inspired some of Roy’s iconic drawings with the works themselves. Clear wall texts in plain English explain the transitions in the artist’s technique, especially with regard to the creation of his beloved Benday-dot replication. Don’t miss the “NOK!! NOK!!” door, which is the only extant piece of “A Room.”
Roy Lichtenstein: The Black-and-White Drawings, 1961–1968
The Morgan Library & Museum September 24, 2010, through January 2, 2011

#MuseumArt Credits