Every year, we’re amazed by what people want to read, share, and comment on, and 2021 was no different. People couldn’t get enough of Hakim Bishara’s report on the first new blue inorganic pigment in two centuries (how ironic that months later he reported on the shortage of blue pigment caused by supply chain issues) and Justine Smith’s reflection on whether online porn is worth preserving.
Other popular articles included Joanna García Cherán’s consideration of Frida Kahlo’s relationship to Indigenous culture, Valentina Di Liscia’s interview with a courtroom artist who realized convicted sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell was sketching her, Sarah Bond’s connection of ancient and contemporary history through the “Black Avenger” figure, and Hrag Vartanian’s review of the Kaws retrospective in Brooklyn got a lot of people talking.
So in lieu of Required Reading this week, everyone needs a break, we present our list of the most popular posts from the year.
- “Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries” by Hakim Bishara — Blue, a universally loved color and Hyperallergic’s signature tint, made headlines earlier this year when a new member joined its ranks: YInMn (don’t worry, we’re not sure how to pronounce it either). It is the first inorganic blue pigment in two centuries. Bishara gives an overview of the color’s journey, beginning with its patenting in 2012 to its approval and availability as a paint today.
- “Is Any Modern Porn Worth Preserving?” by Justine Smith — Late in 2020, Pornhub was revealed to host videos of assault, child pornography, and revenge porn and took down millions of videos created by amateur pornographers. Smith discusses how the content purge will likely harm sex workers in the future and reveals the commercial interests at play within the industry in this discerning analysis.
- “The World I Wish People Knew’: Photographer Cara Romero on Redefining Contemporary Native art” by Anne Wallentine — This feature centers on California-based artist Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), a 2020 recipient of the NDN Collective’s Radical Imagination Grant. The work is imaginative and striking, a clear product of the artist’s keen understanding of the colonial history and subversive power of photography, as well as the broad range of experiences within Native communities.
- “A Gut-Wrenching but Graceful Photo Project on Trump’s America” by Lauren Moya Ford — Highlighting photographs from Mitch Epstein’s Property Rights, this piece went viral almost immediately after we published it. Contextualizing images of activism, loss, and the turbulence of the everyday, Moya Ford introduced a project that speaks to how history echoes through and beyond a four-year timespan.
- “Ghislaine Maxwell Stared at Her Courtroom Artist and Sketched Her Right Back” by Valentina Di Liscia — Published ahead of the subject’s recent verdict, this drawing of Ghislaine Maxwell shamelessly sketching her own courtroom artist went viral earlier this month. As Di Liscia reports, a flood of reactions online swiftly poured in, from spooked to disgusted to sadly, unsurprised.
- “Ancient Rome and the Myth of the Black Avenger” by Sarah E. Bond — Picking up on a comparison to the figure of Black Panther, Bond’s fascinating essay traverses centuries to connect the dots between ancient Roman literature and the formation of a Black avenger figure.
- “Wonder Woman the Museum Worker Is a Less Convincing Disguise Than Clark Kent’s” by Sanchita Balachandran — In another moment of superheroes and art colliding, Balachandran focuses on Wonder Woman and the politics of the museum. Starting with the main character’s role as a museum staff member, she provides an illuminating take on what the film may have to offer about these institutions, their failings, and their possibilities.
- “An Indigenous Perspective on Frida Kahlo” by Joanna García Cherán — If you’ve never seen a store brimming with screen-printed Frida Kahlo handbags and t-shirts and mugs, yes you have. Given the artist’s rise to popularity in the past couple of decades, García Cherán’s thought-provoking opinion piece challenged readers to question the artist’s near-deification and how racial politics and Indigenous erasure figure into it.
- “Kaws Is Terrible, But Thankfully Forgettable” by Hrag Vartanian — From a towering presence that no one asked for at Rockefeller Center to this bizarre exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, Kaws is everywhere and nowhere at once. This piece, featuring a number of direct artistic interventions, delves into Kaws’s deep-seated mediocrity and commercial success, which seem to go hand-in-hand.
- “A Loving Tribute to the Egg Cream, New York’s Classic Drink” and “Bob Ross the Dreamer Got a Rude Awakening” by Hrag Vartanian — This pair of articles by our editor-in-chief captured readers’ attention with two topics we can’t get enough of: New York-specific food and the one and only Bob Ross. The former article looks at the film Egg Cream and its affectionate coverage of a beverage that originated in Jewish communities on the Lower East Side, while the latter takes on the documentary, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, which shook up audiences upon its release, and digs deeper into the life and some puzzling elements of the pop culture icon.
- “The Myth About Having Children as an Artist” by Daniel Gerwin — Gerwin’s piece, touching on entangled perceptions of legitimacy, gender, and parenthood in the arts, got readers thinking about all these themes and more in its challenge to, as he puts it, “the canard that serious work is incompatible with family life.”
- “Jasper Johns: Hiding in Plain Sight” by John Yau — Last, but certainly not least, Yau takes us through an investigation of the unrevealed source of one of Johns’s numerous motifs: an altered human body. He leaves us, fittingly, with a host of new insights and a series of unanswered questions.