My husband, Veken, and I wanted to create something that would be a laboratory for our ideas and it was very important to us that contributors would be paid. It was 2009, the global recession was in full swing and we took a chance. I’m glad we did. My passion is writing and art, while Veken’s is interactive marketing. A blogazine seemed a natural fit. We have since experimented with the form and we’re finding a great result.
We also take our tagline seriously, “Sensitive to Art & its Discontents.” Discontent is a source of creativity and that’s one of the foundations of what we do. You have a problem? Let’s talk about it, well, unless you’re crazy and unreasonable, in which case then maybe you should get a therapist and not blog or comment on Hyperallergic.
Did you ever expect it would become as big as it has? Were you surprised by the success?
We got some traction pretty early and we grew from there. Yes, we were surprised but we did have a strategy (thanks to Veken) and we had a desire to create something new and succeed. After a year, we started the ad network, Nectar Ads, then we started hiring parttime and fulltime staff. Now, Veken and I are fulltime and we have two parttimers and some day raters, not to mention over 30 freelancers. It has grown and our traffic, reach, impact, etc. have grown accordingly.
What impact do you think the internet has had on the art world?
The internet has become the medium that unifies us. There is nothing else that is shared by museums, galleries, critics, artists, writers, curators, educators, marketers, etc. Art fairs don’t include museums, biennials tend exclude educators and galleries (though some may question how much that is true anymore), but the internet is a big tent and everyone is invited.
Do you see any big advantages/disadvantages of being online?
Online is more fun than print, no two ways about it. It’s more dynamic and less stodgy. Disadvantages? Well, it can suffer from the “next new thing” phenomenon more than print. But I love it even with all its faults. Also, being online means you have to be open to anything. Flame wars, nastiness, things evolving quickly (including stories) and hacking. All suck but when you get the hang of it you learn to cope and move on quickly. One piece of advice is accepting that just because someone tells you “you suck” online, it doesn’t mean you do. People have bad days, and they take it out on others, even when it isn’t their fault. Learn to embrace and love your fellow netizen even with their plethora of faults.
Do you feel you or online art blogs/websites in general have any power/influence within the artworld?
Yes, most definitely. We create conversations for the real world. Print is mostly for academia or gallery sales or something like that (who knows anymore). I don’t think anyone is under the delusion that Artforum is changing anything outside the art world. On the other hand, online art publications are responding to every day things, links, being linked to, generating discussion, etc. Our recent piece on Scott Blake’s Free Chuck Close filter generated discussion on Salon, Boing Boing, TechDirt, HuffPo and elsewhere. We’re not talk to ourselves, we’re talking to the world and sometime they listen.
In terms of the art world, we’re finding artists, collectors and gallerists don’t care about the difference between print or online the same way they used to. Who wants to read a review two months after a show closes? Answer: no one, except the artist and his or her friends.
I know Curators read us, other critics do. I know of a museum who bought a work by an artist whose work appeared on our site. I know collectors who discovered work on Hyperallergic, I know artists who learn about grants, residencies, etc. We’re a hub and we pride ourselves in that.