A Few Art Sites Are Going Mainstream. . . But is the Media Noticing?

By R. Speaker in Misc > Art Opinion

I’ve noticed a trend in the last few years involving art websites. Many of them (if not all) are starting to take the social networking route to build community online. But only a few are meshing with the mainstream art world.

Charles Saatchi was the first to bring together a website for artists and the mainstream art community. Saatchi Online—his online gallery for artists—has been included at major art fairs, including the SCOPE art fair.

At least one other art community has entered the art fair circle as well. Myartspace.com, a social network for artists, will be included at the Bridge Art Fair this coming December during Art Basel Miami.

Other than these two, very few online art communities have been able to reach this level of success. . . Saatchi was able to do it by his name alone while Myartspace was able to do it through mere ambition.

The irony of their success is that other art sites (who deny the importance of the mainstream art world) seem to get more press than Saatchi or Myartspace combined—both online and in traditional publications.

One must ask why.

Take a look at deviantART.com and you’ll see a perfect example of this.

DeviantART has achieved wide acclaim even though it has never been featured at a major contemporary art fair, has never been involved with mainstream galleries, and has never had professional jury panels with jurors from the Tate Modern or other prestigious institutions (while Saatchi and Myartspace have).

Yet deviantART continues to nab the attention of the press. Could it be that the media focuses too much on traffic and membership numbers instead of investigating how legitimate an art site is in the art world—like the connections it has or the opportunities it offers artists?

Sadly, I think that is the case.

Another example of an art site dominating the press is Redbubble.com. Redbubble, like deviantART, is an art site with huge membership and traffic—however, Redbubble has yet to mesh with the mainstream art world.

The founder of Redbubble has actually spoken out against the mainstream art world on his Redbubble blog, so I think the chances of Redbubble being accepted by the mainstream art world is slim. Yet the media rushes to interview core members of Redbubble. Is the media missing something? I think so.

I like deviantART and Redbubble just as much as the next person. However, I also like an art site that helps artists get featured in an art fair or shown in the heart of New York City. Saatchi and Myartspace have done that and have continued to do it, yet neither one has had much press for their efforts compared to the range of press that deviantART and Redbubble have.

Instead, the media focuses on deviantART’s competition involving Megadeth or one of Redbubble’s many member-organized coffee house exhibits.

It seems to me that the media needs to check their priorities when covering art sites rather than focus on hype alone. That goes for social networking media outlets like Mashable that have also dropped the ball on reporting about art sites and their importance within the mainstream art world.

The media might be missing out, but artists are not. While sites like Saatchi Online and Myartspace may have low traffic compared to deviantART or Redbubble, they continue to gain more traffic with each passing month.

Artists realize that those two sites offer career-making opportunities and connections compared to what deviantART or Redbubble has to offer. At the end of the day a group exhibit in the Chelsea art district or a showing at a major contemporary art fair is going to pay off for an artist more than having work displayed on an album cover or some other form of merchandise.

I realize that. Why can’t the media?

At some point this trend of writing about art sites that have an anti-art world and anti-corporation approach will phase out—maybe when people realize that deviantART and Redbubble are both very wealthy corporations and that neither one would be accepted into the mainstream art world even if they desired it.

It’s easy for an art site to play the rebel role when they aren’t wanted by the mainstream art world. Once the hype fades away, maybe sites like Saatchi Online and Myartspace will finally obtain the exposure they deserve from the media.

This article was a guest post by R. Speaker. If you’d like to add something to the discussion, please send it in. New reader-submitted articles are published weekly.


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