Saturday, October 1, 2011


Facebook, Curator of Culture

As the Academy makes its first bold forays into the expanding worlds of social media, we find ourselves reeling from a recent exchange with facebook, and on the edge of an interesting debate.

It’s not “Contemporary vs. Traditional” or “Disegno vs. Colore.” It’s much more universal and it drives to the heart of the age-old dialogue in visual culture: What is Art?

Just today, facebook alerted me that an image which violates their Terms of Use was removed from the New York Academy of Art’s facebook page. This image – a drawing by Steven Assael (see below) – is in an exhibition curated by the Academy and shown at the Eden Rock Gallery in St. Barth’s.

And this isn’t the first time... Alyssa Monks (MFA 2001) was censored by facebook, too. (Also read Huffington Post’s comments.) How does the de-facebooking of other works of fine art connect to the recent decision by the Smithsonian to remove David Wojnarowicz’s artwork from the National Portrait Gallery’s online and on-site exhibition?

As an institution of higher learning with a long tradition of upholding the art world’s “traditional values and skills,” we, the Graduate School of Figurative Art, find it difficult to allow facebook to be the final arbiter – and online curator – of the artwork we share with the world.

If it begins with Steven Assael, a modern master, who's next? Is it Kurt Kauper? (His drawing is still on facebook.) And then… must we censor artworks by our own MFA graduates? In this online kingdom in which facebook seems to rule, allegedly as a tool of universal communication and equal opportunity advancement, how shall the New York Academy of Art continue to impartially promote its under-recognized artists?

If facebook is a new online Salon de Paris, where a faceless group of “curators” determine what artwork the public should see, well then please consider our website the Salon des Refusés!

And so we now ask: How is FACEBOOK controlling ART?

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