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We can barely believe it, but it has already been three years since Hrag and I founded Hyperallergic, and what a journey it has been.
What started as a kernel of an idea we had during the worst recession of our lifetimes has grown to become a vibrant art blogazine, a community of dedicated art writers and readers, and a “first of its kind in the art world” ad network that supports independent art writing around the country.
It hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been worthwhile. Hyperallergic was born out of a frustration with the lack of paid online writing opportunities, frustration with the dead-tree art media that spoke a language that numbed our peers, frustration with our jobs at the time, and a concern that the art world and art publishing in general was too reliant on nonprofit funding or funding from just a few wealthy individuals.
It was the summer of 2009, and Hrag and I were still newlyweds bathing in the utopianism of the Honeymoon phase when we thought, “Why don’t we work together to create a laboratory for our ideas about arts writing, digital marketing, publishing, and the future of the art world?” So we took the leap, and after a few months of working late through the night, and a few thousand dollars to invest to design to set up our new site, we launched Hyperallergic on October 14, 2009.
The first signs of some traction started very early, when within only a few weeks of going live we published our first (and now infamous) 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World, which was a response to Art Review’s Top 100 and the culture of celebrity and cults of power that the art world cultivates. Since then, we’ve reached thousands of new readers with our coverage of the Egyptian Revolution turmoil that threatened to engulf the Egyptian Museum, Ai Weiwei’s arrest, and a slew of copyright issues that impact the art world. We were also the first art publication (and one of the first culture publications) to grapple with Occupy Wall Street and what it meant.
After our first year online, we began to struggle to find a model that would sustain an independent online art publication without falling into the nonprofit mold or finding a rich patron, neither of which were options we were interested in. We also believed that writers and cultural producers create value and should be paid for their contributions, and so the business we set out to build to support and sustain the site was as important to our vision as the content and articles that we published.
So in 2010, together with like-minded influential art blogs, we created Nectar Ads, a network of art publishers which today reaches 1.3 million-plus unique readers a month and helps fund the work of Hyperallergic as well as such wonderful art blogs as Colossal, Art Fag City, the Rhizome blog, Art Market Monitor, Vandalog, Two Coats of Paint, and, most recently, Big Red & Shiny. Our hope is that we can create a sustainable model that supports indie art publishing while also connecting our readers to valuable, relevant, and interesting sponsors.
Now, three years later, we continue to be proudly headquartered in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, among a vibrant culture of emerging artists. We’re excited on a daily basis by the ideas behind art and how it enriches our lives rather than focusing on its role as a commodity. We believe that we’ve effectively carved out a place for accessible, engaging, open-minded ideas and conversations about art that appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.
In the past year, in addition to expanding the number of writers and photographers we publish, we launched Hyperallergic Weekend, which in the very able hands of John Yau, Thomas Micchelli, Albert Mobilio and Claudia La Rocco has created an important arena for in-depth discussion about art, literature, music, film, and performance. This month, we announced that Hyperallergic has a new weekday editorial team and we are more than ready for what’s to come ahead.
As we begin our fourth year, Hrag and I both feel extremely lucky to finally be able to devote our full energy to Hyperallergic and Nectar Ads and to continue adapting to a fast changing art world. The landscape has changed for online art writing and we like to think that we’ve been a part of that evolution. Today, quality online art publishers are more likely to pay contributors than ever before; the divide between print and digital publications continues to shrink (and is almost nonexistent among the younger generation); and art topics continue to weave themselves into the general narratives that drive the mediascape on a daily basis.
In three years we’ve published the work of 180+ writers and photographers, our reach has grown through social media channels and syndication partners such as Salon, Paddle8, WG News and others, and in August alone a grand total of 189,248 unique visitors stopped by the site.
We are excited about the future for Hyperallergic and we’re so happy you’re a part of it.
On Friday, October 5 at 8:30pm we’re hosting a special birthday “house party” and we want you to come! Artist Andrew Ohanesian’s latest project, slated to open at Pierogi’s The Boiler in Williamsburg, will be the site for our bash. So mark your calendars and stay tuned for more details on the event. We look forward to celebrating three amazing years and the many more to follow.