Give Peter Plagens credit: after getting raked over the coals online last winter, he opted to put together a feature on art blogs rather than simply lash out against a phenomenon he admits he knew little about. Even smarter, having realized that (I paraphrase) the distinctive element about blogs lies in their role as a platform from which to talk back, he let the story be told through the words of several prominent online writers--you can get the rundown here. The result, of course, is the already-mentioned Art in America article, "Report from the Blogosphere: The New Grass Roots," in the new issue of the magazine (but with no version as yet online, unfortunately.)
Having now read it, I'm sorry to say that, through no one's fault in particular, it's a bit dull. Or at least it is to anyone who has more than a passing familiarity with blogs, as the questions revolve around old warhorses like editorial control, relative prestige of different media, dealing with comments and trolling, etc. To the extent that one must assume Art in America's audience is not terribly internet savvy, that probably makes it a useful article, though it does pull the rug out from under my argument that the most interested audience for it would be online--if anything, it's the opposite. There are a few intriguing nuggets I might return to, but for now I'll just point out two off-notes that struck me. First, Plagens makes sure to note that he didn't mean any insult when he wrote in February that "More and more people in the audience for contemporary art would rather read Tyler Green snark somebody in his blog, Modern Art Notes, than ponder the considered judgment of Michael Kimmelman on a MOMA retrospective." That's nice, but his further remark that he, too, prefers snark goes right by what Tyler objected to in the statement and continues to perpetuate the idea that snark is all MAN (or similar sites) do. Second, Ed Winkleman noted his impression that his contributions to the article seemed to be more heavily edited that those of the others. I don't know that his answer to the first question--what do the writers see as the purpose of their sites--was one that got chopped down. Its content, however--a bald statement that the blog is a marketing tool for the gallery, and nothing more--makes it seem so and doesn't do full credit to his online work. Sure the marketing aspect is fundamental; I don't think Ed's ever made any bones about that. But anyone who reads his page will see that he brings much more to it than a simple pr need would suggest. A little more context would have painted a more accurate picture, I think, though perhaps I'm wrong and Ed would disagree.
Art in America's efforts have also brought forth a little tantrum as ugly as it was predictable from one frequent target of art blogs. I'm not going to link to it, though I'm sure anyone reading this site has already seen it or can find it easily enough. I will repeat the gist of a comment I left elsewhere regarding the outburst:
The writer is a garden-variety troll, nothing more. He and his editor enjoy trying to piss people off and the attention that ensues. The Art in America article provided an occasion for them to take potshots against some people who've criticized them in the past and they took it. At the same time, that editor is quoted in the same AiA article comparing his site to a blog, trying to get some of the buzz that publication's providing. And I can understand the anxiety that leads the author to write as he does and his editor to publish it: no one pays to read him--it's hard to even conceive of doing so--and the website he's published on essentially amounts to a very useful artist/gallery listings service and auction database with a vanity publication attached. Growth in other online media and art writing only exposes that fact more and more each day.
And that's that.