Those who haven’t taken a look at the The Two Percent already need to do so. Conceived and maintained by artist and enthusiast David Behringer, the website not only to helps art newbies navigate galleries, but provides a filter for all the exhibitions and critic recommendations available in the city. In short it’s useful to professionals and lay people alike. The site organizes viewing by the “Top Five”: the best five shows currently on view, “Known”: New work by famous artists, and”Medium:” The best in each medium, while providing additional pages such as “Compare“: a graph that allows users to see how The Two Percent ratings compare with mainstream publications.
My interest in the site led me to meet up with Behringer a while ago and arrange an interview. Our conversation took place in early December over IM.
Art Fag City: Could you talk about what your motivations were for starting the site?
David Behringer: The site was made for me – both past and present. When I moved here 4 years ago I wanted to see what was going on at the galleries, but had no idea where to start. Over a few years I developed a system, and I’m sharing it with my former self… or anyone like my former self. Also, keeping up a site like this forces me to stay on track and really identify who I am.
AFC: So how many shows do you see a week to come up with the top 2 percent
DB: It varies – a couple weeks ago I saw 31.. which is about normal. The first weekend of the season I saw 53.
AFC: And how do you determine how much time you spend at a gallery?
DB: The art really determines that. Though my style is always to come back to shows that catch me. So the first round is pretty quick, then the next week I’ll go back to a number of those. I’ve found 2 viewings are better than 1 longer one. I guess the simpler answer is that if there’s not much that catches me, I’ll see more shows.
AFC: Well, that’s completely logical.
DB: There are two things that I enjoy – the surprise of seeing something for the first time, and then seeing the actual work for what it is… which requires two views.
AFC: I wanted to talk to you about your site for some time, because it’s actually useful: It tells people what you think is worth seeing, what the critics think is worth seeing, and organizes that information in very logic (new york centric) ways, ie by walking order. How often do you find your opinions line up with the critics?
DB: That’s hard – because often a critic/publication will recommend something the final week the show is open. So even though I’ve recommended it from day one, it doesn’t appear to match up. I make far fewer recommendations that most other publications, so they typically line up pretty often (eventually).
AFC: also very interesting! Does your site also gives people an idea of who does the most reviewing?
DB: No not really…The New York Times “recommends” 1 or 2 shows at any given time.. but reviews as many as 10 a week I do keep track of all reviews in my database that drives the site and eventually want to integrate that into the site as well.
AFC: There’s a lot on the site already because you write your own reviews of shows you’re interested in as well. I like those reviews. They are straight forward and easy to read.
DB: Glad you like them. I write reviews of shows that are interesting to write about. Rarely are they “recommended” by me. The main purpose of my own reviews is to really find my voice and try to identify with what critics go through…wait scratch that – if you’re talking about the little short notes… those are a lot of fun – to try to describe a show while not giving too much away.
AFC: I was talking about the reviews, but I like the short notes, particularly those under the “Known” category
AFC: Right now, those aren’t particularly positive.
DB: I have high expectations.
AFC: Do you know the percentage under that category of artists who receive positive versus negative blurbs?
DB: not exactly no – though that would be fun to have a running percentage at the top of that page (note to self). Right now it is unusually negative. I’d guess overall it’s more 50/50. There are times when a “known” artist really surprises me – which is a treat. Like when a band/singer changes the lyrics for live shows.
AFC: Oh totally. You also have a creating and collecting section to the site under the heading “blog”.
DB: I’m using the term “blog” very loosely.
AFC: Indeed. So under creating you have an image you’re painting in your studio and this practice is relatively new right?
DB: Of painting? No. Of a webcam, yes. [The webcam documents the progress of David Behringer's painting]. I double majored in college: A BFA in studio art (painting) and a BA in art history.
AFC: You’ve been painting for how long then? And how long have you been collecting for?
DB: Exactly 1 year collecting, (I’ve been painting for a lot longer). Both the painting and the collecting currently serve one primary purpose: learning.
AFC: What have you learned so far?
DB: Ha ha. Seriously? Wow, that’s a book deal right there.
AFC: Ha! a preview from the book deal perhaps?
DB: I’ve learned that I never know as much as I think I do. My assumptions about nearly everything are not necessarily wrong, but different.
AFC: Any advice for newbie collectors using a credit card?
DB: Ha ha…. don’t! Have you heard about this financial crisis?! I do not recommend what I’m doing (credit) to ANYONE. I enjoy the thrill of the risk, but I’m not saying it’s smart.
AFC: LOL. Finally, what are some of your future plans for the site?
DB: The difficulty is in balancing what I want the site to be and what I have time for. I’m currently working on a “guide to the blogs”.. A while back I researched art bloggers to find out who to read and who to contact and took notes on all of them… So similar to the “compare” chart, I want a blog guide that compares them not by my opinion, but by how often they update, what they focus on, etc. Also I do see a lot of shows outside Chelsea, and want to find a way (the time) to expand this to other neighborhoods without making it too complex.
AFC: How would the blog compare chart compare to something like Quantcast [a site that measures blog reader demographics, traffic, and more]? (And yes, it does seem like the Lower East Side will be increasingly important so it’s eventual integration makes sense. Time is always an issue though.)
DB: I don’t know about too much about Quantcast, but from a first look: simplification
DB: You’ll see. It will be awesome!