Remedios Varo, Spiral Transit, 1962
Modern Art Notes blogger Tyler Green laments Jerry Saltz’ move from traditional media outlets to Facebook as a venue for his “MoMA-and-gender campaign”. In late May, Saltz published research via a status update revealing that only 4% of art work made by women artists is on display in MoMA’s 4th and 5th floor permanent sculpture and painting collection, sparking intense debate. No critic has expressed a lack of support for increasing the representation of women in MoMA’s permanent collection, but Green believes that in choosing Facebook as a venue, Saltz chooses only to speak to insiders. “It is because of his insiderhood that Saltz has been able to pursue the MoMA issue via places only accessible to, well, insiders,” writes the blogger.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but to assert that the problem with Facebook as a venue for debate is its cliquishness is to completely miss the point. Sure, many of Saltz’s “friends” are art world professionals, but it seems unlikely that all 5,000 of them are the “insiders” Green seems to think they are. Also, it’s not like the discussion board Seeing Out Loud is only available to a few elite. Anyone can join the group.
The issue with using Facebook as a venue for conversation is that the software wasn’t designed for those purposes. Linking to valuable points made in discussion threads is difficult, and multiple threads on the same topic are bound to occur. And of course, we’re all relying on a free application to provide archive maintenance. Users typically get what they pay for.
Green touches on none of this, explaining later on in his post why Saltz’s approach to the MoMA-gender issue makes him uncomfortable.
Once upon a time critics were eager to explain to non-art-ghetto audiences why the art and art-related subjects that were important to them should be important to other people, to people outside the art world. Saltz is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist. He has significant outside-the-art-world credibility. He has either been unable to or he has chosen not to use that credibility to emphasize or elevate the importance of the arts in the broader culture.
But how has Saltz failed to explain why gender representation should be important? Green doesn’t provide any citations, so I guess we should just take his word for it.
As I see it, Saltz is running the conversation in the same way one does on a blog: with the understanding that it’s an ongoing conversation thread people can follow. With that said, I wish Mr. Saltz would move some of this conversation to an actual blog. Transitioning audiences is nerve-racking, but in the case of Saltz, fully necessary. The discussions he generates simply won’t circulate the way they should if it’s behind Facebook’s walled garden. And despite the critic’s repeated claims of technological illiteracy and worries about sufficient resources, if my great-grandmother has figured out how to upload an image to the web, so can he.
Related: The latest correspondence in Jerry Saltz’ discussions with MoMA about gender representation. See also here.