AFC Looks Back: Highlights From The Archives

by Paddy Johnson on November 27, 2011 · 3 comments History

AFC’s nomination for Best Art Blog at the Art & Reality Conference in St. Petersburg has inspired me to take a look at our archives. The blog’s content stretches over six years — a lifetime on the Internet — the body of which is now recognized as pioneering work in the field. Newer blogs like Hyperallergic, GalleristNY, and In The Air have greatly benefited from this early work.

Here’s a look at some of the posts that brought us here:

IMG MGMT, a widely-lauded series of image-based essays by artists

IMG MGMT: The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, 2009, by Jon Rafman
A survey of images culled from Google Street View with commentary by Jon Rafman.

IMG MGMT: New Century Modern Surface Design, 2010, by Josh Kline
An essay that posits that the Mid-Century Modern period evokes fond memories for both the Left and Right.

IMG MGMT: Squiggles, Trees, Ribbons and Spirals: My Collection of Women's Health, Beauty and Support Group Logos as the Stages of Life in Semi-Particular Order, 2010, by Shana Moulton
The title describes the piece.


In Search of a Better Moment in Pop-Culture History, 2006, by Paddy Johnson
Why subject matter and art methods shouldn’t be random. On Evan Roth and Ben Engebreth’s White Glove Tracking. Crowdsourcing at its worst.

Net Aesthetics 2.0. The Long of It., 2008, by Paddy Johnson
In which I transcribe all the comments made in Net Aesthetics 1.0, the panel’s first iteration, and compare them to what artists said two years later at the Rhizome panel, Net Aesthetics 2.0.

The Uncanny Valley of “Electrocuted Squirrel”, 2010, by Will Brand
Will Brand discusses the phenomenon on YouTube whereby it becomes impossible to identify art for what it is. I mention this essay in virtually every talk I give because I think it’s so important.


The New York Times on Curating, 2009 and 2006,  by Paddy Johnson
In 2009, the New York Times wrote a trend piece on the use of the word “curating”, a trend I had already identified on the blog in 2006. This post discusses the term and my observations from way back when.

Tech Break: How Much is Facebook Privacy Worth?, 2009,  by Paddy Johnson
Why doesn’t Facebook charge for private accounts? This is what the phone company used to do for private lines.

Things to stop talking about: The Readymade, 2011, by Corinna Kirsch
Marcel Duchamp, we’ve had enough of him here.

ART FAIRS: AFC trademark coverage (according to Wikipedia)

Terence Koh's Anus Has Seen Better Days, 2006, by Paddy Johnson
Art Basel Miami, 2006. Boom time.

The Armory Show, New Digs, Same Fair, 2007, by Paddy Johnson
It’s impossible to know what’s good at an art fair; it all looks like you should buy it.

The Armory Show Bingo, 2011, by Will Brand
This also belongs in trends: A card full of identified art trends.

EPIC COMMENT THREADS: AFC is known for our highly combative and intelligent comment community.

How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Change a Painting, 2010, by Paddy Johnson
Commenters hash out the meaning of Amy Sillman’s paintings at Sikemma Jenkins

How Many Lightbulbs Does This Network Need?, 2010, by Paddy Johnson
Commenters continue to hash out the meaning of Amy Sillman’s paintings at Sikemma Jenkins

Chasing the Cheap Ass Sublime, 2010, by Paddy Johnson
I liked Rashaad Newsome’s The Conductor, but I eventually had to concede that this didn’t make a good work of art.


Work of Art Episode 3: POP IS EVERYTHING Recap, 2011, by Will Brand
Fucking brilliant IMO. This is just reality television, but Will Brand brings some actual criticism to the table here.


The Guys We Would Fuck: An Interview with Nayland Blake, 2008, by Paddy Johnson
No one gives a better interview than Nayland Blake. Here we talk about his show at Monya Rowe and identity.


The Undetermined Influence of John Waters Over Pearl Paint Employees, 2010, by Paddy Johnson
The closing of Pearl Paint sparks some grad school nostalgia and in the comment section, a response from my mother!


Brian Sherwin November 27, 2011 at 10:12 am

I’ve made a living from art blogging for six years now. That is no easy task if you think about it. I did it all as sellsword — writing for the highest bidder. Others, like Paddy, went a different route –focusing on their own blog while taking other gigs on the side. Paddy is a pioneer in my opinion –  I’ve probably made a living blogging for just as long… but if I had focused on my own art blog the whole time I would have gave up by now. It is not easy building something up from scratch. It is a lot harder to establish a brand than it is to improve upon an existing brand.

I’ve seen a lot of people jump into this game in recent years — all trying to twist the history of art blogs and the art blogging community for themselves. It is always amusing to see some of them quoted on the subject even though they are ignorant of the history.It is not their fault — they simply were not there when it happened.  It always leaves me thinking… “Who the Hell is this guy?”. Paddy though… Paddy was always there. Then you have Sharon Butler and a few others… and Ed.

I humbly suggest that I was one of the first to show that you can make money as an art writer online outside of the traditional model of professional art writing — and can do it outside of NYC.  I did it. I accomplished it. I was earning profit writing for art related companies online when people were saying that art blogs would never be taken seriously. Paddy was the first, in my opinion, to show that you can make money and gain influence from an art blog itself. So yes, Art Fag City paved the way for Hyperallergic and a number of other blogs that have gained influence in recent years.

As for me — I prefer writing for others… I’ve always wanted to know though… Paddy, why did you decide to go this route instead of simply writing for other art blogs full-time? I always work under the condition that I write about what I want to write about. Thus, I do have a lot of independence though technically you could say I’m a corporate art blogger. Did you simply want to secure independence in all aspects of your writing? Or did you simply feel challenged to establish your own brand? What motivated you to create, maintain and continue Art Fag City all while other art blogs have come and gone over the years?

Here is a Fantasy November 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

Yikes! Looks like I’ve missed a few of these essays. It’s time to sit down and have a read-a-thon. 

And Brian, there’s this ( ) “Origin of Art Fag City” essay Paddy wrote a while ago that will probably tell you most of what you want.r

Brian Sherwin November 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

Will def’ read the origin of AFC. It is crazy to think about how many art blogs have come and gone since 2005 — or art bloggers who simply don’t write anymore. Winkleman has a huge list of art blogs on his blog… and it never surprises me when I click on one only to find it has been dead for years. Many appear to have stopped around 2008 so I can only assume that the economy killed the motivation for several writers.

I’m not sure I’d still be doing this as frequently if it were not for the fact that I make a living from it. If I had to have another job I’d simply not have time.  Everyone I know doing this spends a great deal of time per week preparing articles and doing research — we put in far more than we ever get back financially. That said, there is always the reward of someone reaching out to tell you how much an article impacted them. Especially — at least for me — if the person is a college student writing a paper… I wanted to teach art.

I’ve never met Paddy in person… but it always makes me feel good when I learn that a fellow writer is obtaining some form of credit for what they do.

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