Not a Twitter user? You might be surprised to learn there’s a thriving community of Australian visual artists, art writers, critics and galleries online. While Facebook might be more popular and Instagram more image-friendly, Twitter provides users with the ability to drop in and follow anyone with a handle – from public figures, artists and art critics to tastemakers and gallery directors. What’s more, there’s no danger of breaching any social media etiquette by doing so. Unlike most other platforms, following people who are not your personal friends is the norm on Twitter. In addition, there’s the added potential to chat with them and to follow debates on contemporary issues.
Following international art critics such as Jerry Saltz @jerrysaltz, Waldemar Januszczak @Januszczak or Marina Galerpina @mfortki and global art sites (like Artsy @artsy Artnet @artnet or Hyperallergic @hyperallergic) are fun, informative and entertaining – but who’s worth following on the local art scene?
For popularity, Vasili Kaliman’s The Art Market @theartmarket wins hands down with over 100,000 disciples. Most major Australian national and state public galleries also have significant Twitter profiles. However, unlike some of their international counterparts like the SFMOMA @sfmoma, MoMA @MuseumModernArt and Britain’s Tate Gallery @Tate – who not only engage with their followers but are keen to retweet the best 140 word accounts of exhibitions by patrons (good or bad) – the Twitter streams of Australian public galleries could do better by making themselves appear more human. The smaller the institution, the more likely they are to have an authentic online ‘personality’; here, Monash University’s MUMA @mumamonash deserves a mention. The Directors and staff of some galleries have personal accounts – the Art Gallery of South Australia’s Nick Mitzevich @mitzevich and Lismore Regional Gallery’s Brett Adlington @adlingtonbrett are two examples.
While the art and culture sections of major newspapers and art mags are on Twitter and tend to have the large followings, more engaging are the individual writers and critics. There’s an abundance of Australian art writers and critics online – and while they’re out sourcing stories, most will happily engage in a chat (or occasionally an argument) about what they’re seeing and doing. Among them are The Sydney Morning Herald’s John McDonald @JMDartcritic and Andrew Taylor @smh_andrew, The Art Newspaper & Daily Telegraph’s Elizabeth Fortescue @Ozartwriter, The Guardian’s critic Andrew Frost @sci_fictional (also of The Art Life) and cultural editors Nancy Groves @nancyarts and Monica Tan @m_onicatan. Likewise on board are Robert Nelson @ROBsez from The Age, Katrina Strickland @katrinastrick from the Fin Review, Steve Dow from The Saturday Paper @dowsteve, Michaela Boland @michaelamarea and Ashleigh Wilson @ashleighbwilson from The Australian, and The Conversation’s sometime contributor Joanna Mendelssohn @oldlillipilli.
As for Australian art blogs, The Art Life @The_Art_Life has its own account, Sydney bloggers such as Luise Guest @luiseguest, Big Lamington @biglamington and Naomi Gall @near_elsewhere use Twitter, and Scott Redford occasionally pops up over at Crikey’s @dailyreviewAU. Ocula @oculadotcom covers numerous exhibitions, as does Katrina Grant at Melbourne Art Network @melbartnetwork. Also in Melbourne is Marcus Bunyan at @Art_Blart while Brisbane has Panoptic Press @panopticpress. Freelancers like Jane O’Sullivan @jane_not_jo, Louise Martin-Chew @126Lmc and Tracey Clement @ThePostPost all drop into the conversation at various times.
Artists on Twitter vary from those who surface occasionally to promote their exhibitions or chase the latest celebrity scandals, to others who love to tweet rumours and non-stop politics. Most international artists have a team behind their tweets – think Jeff Koons @JeffKoonsStudio, Marina Abramovic @ArtistisPresent and Gerhard Richter @gerhardrichter – but a few like Richard Prince @RichardPrince4 and Yoko Ono @yokoono are part of the discourse (or at least that’s how it seems). The most compelling local artists use their Twitter feed as an extension of their art practice. Tom Polo @tompolo, Kenny Pittock @kennypittock and Daniel Mudie Cunningham @DanMudCun come to mind. Meanwhile many other artists like Baden Pailthorpe @badenpailthorpe, Archie Moore @ArchieM00re, Brook Andrew @brookartist, Shoufay Derz @shoufay and Owen Leong @owenleong (and too many more to mention) deliver provocative links and observations.
Australian galleries often use Twitter as a form of promotion for their artists – although some like Brenda May Gallery @brendamayart, Melbourne’s West Space ARI @west_space and Emilya Colliver’s online Art Pharmacy @artpharmacy engage in the wider discussion.
For want of a better tag, what I’ll call my favourite ‘out & abouters’ are Brisbane’s Cultural Flanerie @culturalflaneur, the Australia Council’s Julie Lomax @JulieLomax, Sydney’s redoubtable Fleur MacDonald @fleurmacdonald and Melbourne’s Leg of Lamb @LegofLamb1. Nic Forrest @artmarketman and Gina Fairley @ginafairley also get around the traps.
Canvas @CanvasOnFBi is recommended for live interviews and podcasts, and for pure art buzz, it’s hard to go past Ausculturevulture @ausartwatch and the odd Australian mention on Who Wore it Better @woreitbetter. To shift the gender balance, tweets from Melbourne artist Claire Bridge’s Art World Women @ArtWorldWomen are a must, along with the global #artandfeminism hashtag.
That should get the online party started – we’d love to have more artists and art lovers join the Twitter conversation. Any [kind] suggestions for a sexy Australian art community hashtag are welcome to me @sharnewolff.
Find Raven Contemporary on Twitter here:
Publisher: Paul Becker @_Paul_Becker_
Writers: Mariam Arcilla @mariamarcilla
Alison Kubler @AlisonKubler
John McDonald @JMDartcritic
Sharne Wolff @sharnewolff
Chloe Wolifson @chloewolifson