Articles

The Art Guide to Reddit

by Claire Voon on June 18, 2014

Shitty_Birth_of_Venus

A painting by Shitty Watercolor, an artist who gained popularity through Reddit. (via Wikipedia)

Reddit, the self-pronounced “front page of the internet,” is a huge resource for news-gathering or simply discovering something totally weird. Users share and discuss articles, videos, images, GIFs, and much, much more in its labyrinthine system of subreddits — forums dedicated to specific topics — and there’s information to peak everyone’s interests, including those of art enthusiasts. Navigating these innumerable conversations, however, may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re exploring a topic as broad as art, but the key to uncovering gems lies in finding the subreddits that inform, intrigue, or amuse you the most.

The Basics

The mascot for Reddit's art subreddit wearing a beret and sports a thin mustache.

Reddit’s art subreddit mascot wears a beret and sports a thin mustache. (via Reddit)

Similar to a community bulletin board, Reddit is a completely open forum. It draws redditors from all corners of the globe to post threads, which is both a blessing and a curse, as the stream of information is essentially endless but also filterless. Moderators (unofficial subreddit managers) create specific guidelines for posting, but for the most part, any content is fair game. Users curate content through up- and downvotes, so the most popular posts earn spots at the higher end of a subreddit’s feed as they increasingly receive upvotes. You may also search through topics by how “new,” “rising,” or “controversial” they are, among other determinants.

Exploring the top posts of the main art-centric subreddit /r/Art, therefore, is a good place to start if you’re simply curious about the most interesting, current art conversations. The page at present has 461,522 subscribers, which makes it one of the smaller spheres for dialogue in relation to other principal pages (/r/News has just over 3 million subscribers, /r/gifs is nearing that number, and /r/funny comes out on top with over 6 million subscribers; even /r/Showerthoughts has over half a million readers). Still, /r/Art receives enough submissions to yield a good find or two for nonspecific searches. One recent submission linked to paintings by Hitler, and the discussion thread is just as intriguing as the works themselves; this content-with-commentary aspect is one Reddit’s advantages.

Dig Deeper

/r/Art, however, is too expansive if your search is more focused. A quick scan of its page reveals mostly artwork uploaded by artists of all skill levels requesting feedback, with few discussions, questions, and articles scattered in between these personal submissions. While some of this work is visually compelling — and listing them is helpful to artists in need of constructive criticism — the more useful information lies in the smaller, art-related subreddits, of which there are dozens.

Perhaps the most helpful for art news-hounds are /r/Artshub and /r/Artsphere. Unlike /r/Art, these are largely aggregations of articles and attract few comments, but they’re useful for keeping up-to-date with the ongoings of the art world: users (over 4,000 in each subreddit) share and discuss notable stories posted by art publications from the New York Times to smaller blogs, including Tumblr blogs. In this sense, these pages are useful tools to find fresh sources of information that may cover more off-the-radar stories. One of /r/Artsphere’s most popular posts of all time, for example, links to an article on Picasso drawing with light, published on a small website run by a Berlin-based blogger. Although /r/Artsphere has slightly less subscribers than /r/Artshub, the page is updated more frequently, making it a more reliable resource.

Another space for reading about art news is /r/ContemporaryArt, but in addition to links to outside articles there are some worthwhile discussions, such as these threads on recommended contemporary art books or free, online art magazines. Most other art movement-centric subreddits are less active (do we have nothing to say about Abstract Expressionism or Rococo today?), but poking around some of these may also yield interesting content from far-flung areas of the internet. I found “The Surrealist Compliment Generator,” for example, in /r/Surrealism, which I’d like to imagine accurately reflects the conversation chez Madame Rothschild.

The subreddits divided by medium are more beneficial to artists, with posts composed mostly of personal portfolios or discussions concerning certain techniques. From the broad to the specific, find tips on oil painting to steps to depict a realistic plaid pattern; even learn how to printmake on a dime. Other noteworthy subreddits include /r/UnusualArt (here’s an alligator made of melon because why not) and /r/Graffiti, where redditors may help original posters identify street artists — or find neat graffiti in places one wouldn’t usually frequent. There’s /r/ArtefactPorn, too, for those fascinated by historic visual culture such as the engagement ring Napoleon Bonaparte slipped onto Josephine’s finger or this nineteenth-century reticulated ball from China.

A boy with a sloth by Shitty Watercolor, who was inspired by Pablo Picasso's (via shittywatercolour.com)

A boy with a sloth by Shitty Watercolor, who was inspired by Pablo Picasso’s 1901 painting, “A Child with a Dove.”(via shittywatercolour.com)

Reddit also hosts live conversations in the form of AMAs, or Ask Me Anythings, during which often prominent — and verified — figures create an open forum for the public to submit any questions for them to answer. Sometimes its calendar includes significant, art-related sessions, such as past ones run by Marina Abramović or Jerry Saltz, and a joint panel between an art conservator and three museum professionals.

Once you have found the subreddits that suit your interests, subscribe to them to create a customized front page feed to serve as your go-to page. Finding your way around Reddit takes a while, but spending the time to explore the personalities of each of its micro-communities will help you better filter the swarm of information. Artists, critics, art historians, and art nerds alike mingle on the platform, so there’s a diverse crowd not only sharing information but also listening in — so contribute to the conversation by posting your own queries, too.

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  • NM

    * pique

  • Respectfullyyours

    I might as well list some great art related subreddits that were missed. /r/arthistory has a vibrant community and it keeps growing (often times they have AMAs with museum and art world professionals), /r/artdocumentaries has a great collection of art documentaries you can watch online, /r/museum is a beautiful collection of historical artworks, /r/minimalist_art is one of the larger subs dedicated to an art movement and there’s a lot of great submissions there. In addition to /r/ArtefactPorn there is the fledgling /r/SculpturePorn that has a lot of really great pieces, and then there’s /r/RedditGetsDrawn which is where you can post a picture of yourself and redditors will draw it for you. Those are just a few off the top of my head, and if you’re interested in photography there’s a slew of other ones (/r/oldschoolcool, and /r/thewaywewere as two examples). Full disclosure I do moderate a few of the above mentioned subs, but they’re still definitely work checking out.

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      Thanks, these are great additions.

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