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(illustration by the author for Hyperallergic)

An artist whose work I loathe recently sent me a “Friend Request” on Facebook. He’s quite famous, shows with a major Chelsea gallery, and has been featured in exhibitions at museums and galleries all over the US and Europe. At art fairs, his works often command six-digit figures. I have to admit that when his “Friend Request” came through I felt weirdly flattered — If only he knew how I feel about his work!

While I have recently been on a “friending” spree, accepting requests from dozens of artists I don’t know but with whom I have an arbitrarily defined “reasonable number” of “friends” in common, I made an exception for this artist (with whom I share an impressive 401 “friends”). Though I haven’t formally deleted his request, I can think of a few more-or-less earnest reasons I could give when turning the artist down:

  • I don’t want your crappy art polluting my feed with crappiness.
  • I don’t want you sending me messages and posting on my timeline about your next terrible project, which will invariably be terrible.
  • I don’t want you to see all the embarrassing photos of me from undergrad.
  • I don’t want you to see the photo of one of your pieces that I posted that one time and get the impression that I like what you do.
  • I’m fiercely protective of my cats’ privacy and cringe at the idea of you cyber-stalking them, you creep.
  • While I have no respect for your work, I fear the respect you inexplicably command in the art world and can’t face the possibility of you responding negatively to one of my posts and inciting a revolt against me and my work.
  • I don’t want you to tag me in your angry status update when I inevitably give one of your exhibitions a negative review.
  • I don’t want to pathetically resort to tagging you in an overly polite status update when I inevitably give one of your exhibitions a negative review and you don’t even notice it.
  • Knowing that you are a real (possibly even nice) person with friends and a family rather than some primordial form of mediocrity currently transubstantiated on earth as a loathsomely bad artist will make it harder for me to continue thinking and writing negatively about your work.
  • Despite the apparent barrage of “Friend Requests” I have recently accepted from other artists with whom I have far fewer “friends” in common, I am actually very carefully curating my Facebook friendships and you don’t fit with my curatorial vision (which I’m not at liberty to share).
  • One day, when I’m a Klaus Biesenbach-famous curator and turn my back on the aesthetic convictions of my younger self, I will curate your work into a show and I don’t want some upstart art blogger to cite our longstanding Facebook friendship as some kind of conflict of interest.
  • We can only be friends if you stop making art.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

17 replies on “12 Reasons Why I Can’t Be Facebook Friends with This Artist”

  1. Ok this is definitely an interesting take on life in the digital age as we call it. Many people also have computers or smart phones that they use. So sometimes we have to navigate the vast and huge landscape of social networks or emails. and we are navigating like a boat… and that boat is wooden too. And wouldn’t it be interesting to hear more about how people go about this, and is that something we can make art about too?

  2. HA! first story on my feed is the one I was at the bar getting informed about (not having read it). And it lives up to the hype!

  3. Would suggest that artists have a “Like” Facebook page…..separate from a “Friends”-type Facebook page.
    The “Like” FB page is much more flexible to show one’s art & write about art-only topics…plus lots of informative statistics on viewers of the page & unlimited number of people that can LIke the page.
    My “Like” FB page works fine.

  4. Interesting to hear a critic act like an artist, or is it the other way around?… Very self important. I can relate, but don’t worry we are not friends! : )

  5. Not sure why Benjamin needed to wash this piece of laundry in public other than to show how hard he is?

  6. I fail to see what this article (whine) has to do with art. Too many people are mired in the ick surrounding art.

  7. Don’t worry, the friend request was by an intern, employed to work the Artist’s social media for him. (See also: artist employs workers to fabricate his artwork.) He also employs people to clip reviews, so he will never read them either… so no ‘like’ lost.

  8. Such a safe and narrow stance. No room for changing your mind, or the possibility of evolution. No room for the idea that people can have opposing tastes and still communicate. No consideration for the thought that you can learn from things you don’t already like or know. (Yes, I get it’s humor… but the fact that you wouldn’t friend the person also makes it true.) It’s like hearing someone say “Why should I get a passport? I like where I live.”

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