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Two years ago, Delaware’s Winterthur Museum acquired one of the earliest known American depictions of the Easter Bunny. This delightful image is attributed to schoolmaster Johann Conrad Gilbert (1734–1812), who emigrated from Germany in 1757 and ultimately settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania. He likely made the drawing as a gift for one of his students. (via

This week, death of the gallery show, Ellis Island closed, Sharjah Biennial opens, Abramović reflects on the beauty of a glass of water, problems for looking at art with Google, NYPD is tracking criminals using photos on social media, the corporate role in the Harlem Shake, and more.

 Critic Jerry Saltz laments the death of the gallery show and master narratives:

There used to be shared story lines of contemporary art: the way artists developed, exchanged ideas, caromed off each other’s work, engaged with their critics. Now no one knows the narrative; the thread has been lost. Shows go up but don’t seem to have consequences, other than sales or no sales. Nothing builds off much else. Art can’t get traction. A jadedness appears in people who aren’t jaded. Artists enjoying global-market success avoid showing in New York for fear any critical response will interfere with sales.

I personally don’t have that nostalgia. The narratives we once had were limited and excluded far too many people. While the gallery space’s role may have diminish, I see more art than ever, but not always in a gallery setting.

 America’s famed immigration museum, Ellis Island, was damaged so much during Hurricane Sandy that it doesn’t appear likely to reopen this year. Though thankfully the artifacts in the museum survived the storm unscathed.

 The Independent newspaper reviews the latest Sharjah Biennial, which they liked:

The biennial has, since its launch in 1993, quietly provided a crucial platform for contemporary artists in the conservative enclaves of the Middle East. The emirate of Sharjah, just north of Dubai, is now considered a regional hub for contemporary art, more so than its oil-rich neighbour, Qatar, which, in recent years, has invested heavily in contemporary art exhibitions and acquisitions.

 The blog about beauty, Gilded Birds, asked Marina Abramović to pick something she considered beautiful and the artist chose a glass of water. This is her response to why she chose that item:

We always forget about drinking water. We do so many activities at the same time without thinking. I think to take a glass of water and make it into a ritual is really important. There are so many objects that are always around that we don’t think about at all. I think water is one of the most beautiful things in my life. It’s clean, it’s nourishing and we can’t live without it.

 Is Google’s high-resolution and detailed reproduction of art online creating problems for looking at art? James Elkins thinks so:

Peering at art on the Internet is far from just a useful tool or a simple diversion: it produces an entirely new set of problems. It’s fascinating to zoom in to the Google Art Project and wonder when you have passed that invisible boundary between historically appropriate seeing and inappropriate peering. And it’s just as interesting to make use of the technology to revisit questions viewers have often asked, such as the reasons why Cézanne made just the marks he did. Perhaps one day we’ll think of the endless seeing of the Internet as a kind of cultural illness — a compulsion that future generations will find amusing. Our seeing may be pathological, but if it is, it is our pathology, our way of looking at the world.

 Did you know the high-tech unit of the NYPD track criminals through Instagram and Facebook photos?

Facial recognition — which zeroes in on features and extracts size and shape of eyes, noses, cheekbones and jaws to find a match — is now revolutionizing investigations in ways not seen since fingerprint analysis was implemented generations ago.

 Theodore Kerr over at the Visual AIDS blog has been writing (part 1, part 2) about the marriage equality meme and has been comparing it to the groundbreaking “viral” work by General Idea and Gran Fury in the 1980s and 90s:

Like General Idea and Gran Fury before them, the hundreds of people yesterday that took to their computer to riff off the “equality” logo work were engaging in their own scrutiny of this moment, of what is meant by equality and of how lives are really lived in the US. They were attempting to be part of the broadest possible reach. And the work continues. Flesh is still on the line.

 Artist Dan Witz and the Leo Burnett agency Frankfurt joined forces for a street art campaign involving 25 “wailing walls” against injustice that raised awareness about political prisoners around the world. The project was created for Amnesty International:

 Did you know that the Harlem Shake viral craze was manufactured by corporations?

The myth of the “Harlem Shake” is that its viral spread was spontaneous, not directed by financial interests—a pop culture, popular uprising. Here’s how the meme and the myth began …

 A look at the Art Deco heritage of Mumbai.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.

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This week, addressing a transphobic comedy special on Netflix, the story behind KKK hoods, cultural identity fraud, an anti-Semitic take on modern art, and more.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

3 replies on “Required Reading”

  1. Saltz does sound a little disappointed with the death of the gallery show and master narratives, but what I think is important to pull out of his article is that he is identifying an opportunity to build new artistic communities accessible to people at the ground level, in opposition to the current art world oriented around stratospherically wealthy investors.

  2. The Easter Bunny has Germanic origins so that makes sense. Hares were mystical creatures to the Saxons. Easter from the Germanic / Saxon deity Eostre or Ostara. Although there is some considerable doubt whether Eostre was actually a deity or just a festival? Not sure where the chocolate eggs came in though?

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