Critic, Curator, Editor-in-chief & Co-founder of Hyperallergic
The editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian is an editor, art critic, curator, and lecturer on contemporary art with an expertise in the intersection of art and politics.
Hrag co-founded the publication Hyperallergic in 2009 in response to changes in the art world, the publishing industry, and the distribution of information. Breaking news, award-winning reporting, informed opinions, and quality conversations about art have helped Hyperallergic reach over a million readers and listeners a month.
In 2016, Hrag launched the Hyperallergic Podcast, which tells stories from around the world (iTunes). Some notable episodes have delved into the history of Surrealism in Egypt, the story of the largely unknown female Abstract Expressionists, the history of Blackface in Canada, and front-line coverage of the artists taking part in the #StopDAPL action at the Standing Rock reservation in the state of North Dakota. He has also done in-depth interviews with leaders in the contemporary art field, including innovative feminist art historian Linda Nochlin, artist Audrey Flack, key players in the Decolonize This Place activist movement, poet and critic John Yau, artist Michael Rakowitz, and pioneering meme theorist An Xiao Mina.
He champions a type of straight-forward online art criticism that believes in the power of journalism, while retaining a sensitivity to the cultural and economic realities that inform the world of art, culture, and politics. In May 2018, art critic Mary-Louise Schumacher wrote about the rise of Hyperallergic for Neiman Reports at Harvard University.
His curatorial interests are focused on a constellation of theories and practices clustered around ideas of decolonization. His work is informed by his own experience of being part of a post-genocide diaspora.
In 2010, he moved Hyperallergic into a gallery at Outpost in Ridgewood, Queens, to stage #theSocialGraph, the world’s first multi-disciplinary exhibition of social media-related art. In 2015, he orchestrated Jade Townsend’s Crazy Amazing Garage Sale exhibition at Auxiliary Projects, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The three-day liquidation sale of unsold art was an attempt to release the capital trapped in one artist’s storage unit — it liberated over $3,000. In 2017, he kicked off a 10-year project exploring the contemporary legacy of Ottoman studio photography with an exhibition at Minerva Projects in Denver, Colorado. The opening was covered by the Denver Post newspaper.
His original blog, simply named “Hrag Vartanian,” was very active between 2006 and 2010 and focused on politics, writing, and mostly art. The art blog had thousands of daily readers and included guest contributors. It was part of the Culture Pundits network. He also wrote the Re:Public column about street art and politics for ArtCat Zine (2007–2009).
You can also subscribe to Hyperallergic’s newsletter and he also has a person newsletter, and he promises to send more regular missives at some point but right now it’s pretty infrequent. You can always find him on Twitter.
He’s prepared a “30 Things of Mine You Might Want to Read” list of some favorite essays, interviews, articles, reviews, and opinion pieces for those who may have only recently discovered his writing.
Some of his notable essays from the past few years include the forward to The Artist as Culture Producer, which is titled “Imagining the Future Before Us,” his keynote at the American Craft Council’s 2019 national conference, and his criticism of “Tribute in Light.”
He started podcasting regularly in 2016, and in 2018 he launched the Hyperallergic podcast. Notable episodes include: his audio essay on why the female Abstract Expressionists were long overlooked; a three-part series (1, 2, 3) from the 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, which explores the role of artists as water protectors and supporters; an audio essay about the Whitney Museum’s David Wojnarowicz retrospective; and an in-depth interview with artist Michael Rakowitz about his withdrawal from the 2019 Whitney Biennial.
In the summer of 2019, he created a four-part podcast series, in conjunction with the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, that explores the use of clay and ceramic in contemporary art and the role of museums in this revival. For the first podcast he spoke to artist Kent Monkman about the role of museums, while the second featured Shary Boyle discussing feminism and class-consciousness in clay, and the third episode explored blackface in Canada through the lens of an 18th-century harlequin figure in the museum’s collection. The final episode talked to four experts about an ancient Maya plate and how it’s connected to the summer’s news headlines.
He has curated exhibitions and published in alternative venues and formats for two decades, and in 2017, he launched his Fixed Point Perspective project as the debut exhibition at Minerva Projects in Denver, Colorado. The 10-year project examines the legacy of Ottoman studio photography in contemporary art and visual culture.
In April 2018, he created a collaborative installation with artist Sharon Louden at the Mary Sharpe and Walentas Studio Program in Brooklyn, New York. Titled Origins, it explored the five-year professional and personal friendship between the pair as a starting point for a bigger conversation about beginnings and ends. The video from the installation is also available on his YouTube channel. A new iteration of the collaboration was on view at Signs and Signals on Manhattan’s Lower East Side (September 4–October 11, 2019).
Keynotes and Public Lectures
Keynote at the American Craft Council’s Present Tense: 2019 conference, Philadelphia, PA (October 2019) (audio, concise summary)
“What the hell do art critics do?” lecture at the Chautauqua VACI lecture series, Chautauqua, NY (July 8, 2019)
“The New Territories of Contemporary Art: Disturbing the Status-quo” lecture presented by East++ Institute for New Artistic Inquiry and Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase, NY (October 25, 2018)
McKnight Visual Artist Discussion Series at the Minneaspolis Institute of Arts in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Friday, June 1, 2018) with Hrag Vartanian in conversation with Erik Benson and Julie Buffalohead
Alaska lecture tour with Sharon Louden and Matthew Deleget (April 7–22, 2018), including Anchorage (April 12), Fairbanks (April 20), Juneau (April 10), and Ketchikan (April 8)
“Contemporary Armenian Art of the Diaspora” lecture at Hovnanian School’s 9th Annual Art in Fall weekend in New Milford, NJ (November 12, 2017)
“We Know What We Like” event for Triangle Arts Workshop with Karen Wilkin and Christina Kee at Yares Gallery in Manhattan, NY (November 9, 2017)
“The Artist as Culture Producer” conversation with Sharon Louden at 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City, OK (November 6, 2017)
Review panel on the 2017 Whitney Biennial with Jessica Bell Brown, Walter Robinson, and David Cohen at the Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, NY (May 5, 2017)
Public Discussion on The Artist as Culture Producer at the Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa (March 23, 2017)
The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life book launch at Strand Bookstore, New York, NY (March 2, 2017)
Visiting Artist Lecture Series in Fall 2016 at Health and Social Science Auditorium, Department of Art, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico (November 1, 2016, 6–7pm)
Studio VU: The Department of Art Lecture Series 2016-2017 at Wilson Hall, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (September 21, 2016, 6pm)
Hopper Visiting Artist at CSU, Chico, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Art and Art History department (September 22, 2016, 5:30pm)
Visiting Artist Lecture, Maine College of Art, Portland, Maine (June 27, 2016, 5:30–7pm)
Hrag Vartanian at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (March 21, 2016, 6:30-7:30pm)
Visiting Artist Lecture, Cleveland Institute of Art (February 5, 2016)
Visiting Artist Lecture at UC Davis, Davis, California (January 14, 2016, 4:30–6pm)
Visiting Artist Lecture Series, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada (September 10, 2015, 7–8:30pm)
“Living and Sustaining a Creative Life” conversation with Sharon Louden at Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN (May 26, 2015, 6–8pm)
“Humor and Art Criticism” lecture at Florida International University (FIU) Art + Art History department, Miami, Florida (February 26, 2015, 7–8:30pm)
In Conversation with Sharon Louden at Burnet Art Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota (February 4, 2015, 5:30–7pm)
Nashville Fine Arts Student Workshop at the Curb Center at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (January 6, 2015, 5pm)
Insight? Outta Site! talk at the Nashville Public Library Main Branch, Nashville, Tennessee (January 5, 2015, 12pm)
CCS Visitor Talks: Similarly Different or More of the Same (with Hyperallergic and Triple Canopy) at Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York (October 6, 2014, 4:45pm)
“Webinar: CONVERSATIONS INSIDE – An Interview with Hrag Vartanian & Matthew Deleget” for Creative Capital, Dumbo, Brooklyn (April 28, 2014, 7pm)
“What’s So Funny About Art? Art Criticism and Humor” at New York Studio School, Greenwich Village, Manhattan (October 16, 2013, 6:30pm)
“Copyrights, Copywrongs, and Going Viral” at Pratt Department of Digital Arts, Myrtle Hall, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (October 2, 2013, 12:45pm)
“Unsettling Narratives” roundtable with Jolene Rickard at Indigenous New York colloquium, Vera List Center, New School, New York City, NY (March 11, 2017)
AICAD Symposium roundtable, Sarasota, Florida (March 1–2, 2015)
“Who Can Write About Performance Art?” with panelists Claire Bishop, RoseLee Goldberg, Adrian Heathfield, John Rockwell, Hrag Vartanian, and David Velasco, for Performa Performance Art Biennial and Nonprofit Organization (April 24, 2014, 6:30pm)
“I Am for an Art Criticism That … ” at the Witte de With in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (November 28–29, 2012)
“Racial Capitalism: Who Benefits from Cultural Appropriation? A Conversation” with Jeff Chang, Wendy Red Star, DJ Rekha, moderated by Hrag Vartanian organized by the Asian American Art Alliance and The Shelly and Donald Rubin Foundation (New York) (December 10, 2020) (Facebook video archive)
“Conversation between Tania Katan and Hrag Vartanian on Creative Trespassing: How to Flourish in Uncertain Times” as part of the Artists Thrive Virtual Summit (October 1, 2020)
American Craft Forum: The Second Series, Three-part series focused on Craft Thinking (May 15, June 12, and June 26 2020
“Things Change: Artists in Society” panel with Sharon Louden and Alexander Tamahn, moderated by Scott Stulen at the Philbrook Museum, Tulsa, OK (November 3, 2019)
“Telling Queer Stories: The Challenges of Unearthing a History” with moderator Hrag Vartanian in conversation with Cathy Renna & Eduardo Ayala Fuentes at Swann Galleries, New York (June 17, 2019)
Daylong roundtable about aesthetics and art at the Columbia University Department of Philosophy (March 23, 2018)
“Art Criticism and Publishing with Bice Curiger, Hal Foster, Michelle Kuo, and Hrag Vartanian, Moderated by Nikki Columbus” panel, organized by Parkette magazine, Swiss Institute, New York, NY (April 7, 2017)
“The #MeToo Age: Power & Gender Equity in the Art World” panel at LACE, Los Angeles, CA (February 21, 2018)
“The Artist and the Institution: Contemporary and Future Practices” panel with Sharon Louden and moderated by Steven Evans at CAMH in Houston, TX (January 24, 2018)
“The Artist as Culture Producer Tour” event at PAMM in Miami, FL (January 11, 2018)
“Living and Sustaining a Creative Life” panel with Wendy Red Star and Sharon Louden at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, OK (November 3, 2017)
Art / Protest/ ValueDissolve Inequality: Visual Arts Summit sponsored by the Global Studies and Languages and MIT List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts (March 7, 2017)
“Sustaining Creative Energy: A Panel Discussion with Writer Hrag Vartanian, Artist Sharon Louden, and Curator Deana Haggag” panel, which is part of the Seeing Stories: Visualizing Sustainable Citizenship Series, Temple University (March 3, 2017)
“CAA 2017 Key Conversation: Hrag Vartanian, Nitasha Dhillon & Amin Husain on Decolonize this Place” at College Art Association 2017 conference in New York City (February 18, 2017)
“Queer Conflicts” moderated panel with Alexis De Veaux, James Downs, Sarah Schulman, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, and Timothy Stewart-Winter at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, New York (September 17, 2016 1:30–3pm)
“Beyond Paper: New Media Art,” moderated panel with artists Scorpion Dagger (James Kerr), Dominique Pétrin, and Skawennati, Papier 16 art fair, Montréal, Canada (April 22, 2016, 2pm)
“Art and Memory: Looking Back and Moving Forward on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide,” moderator, with Nancy Kricorian, Silvina Der-Meguerditchian, Diana Markosian, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center at NYU, Manhattan, New York (Monday, November 9, 2015, 6–7:30pm)
“What Does Activism in the Arts Means Today? The Middle East as a Case Study” panel discussion at the here, without: art, otherness & Israel – Palestine conference at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (January 17, 2015, 11am–12:30pm)
Moderator of the Crossing Brooklyn #ArtTalk series with the Brooklyn Museum:
November 4, 2014: Alternative Economies with artists Linda Goode Bryant, McKendree Key, William Powhida, and Caroline Woolard at Kickstarter (58 Kent Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn)
November 18, 2014: Performance and Activism with artists Nobutaka Aozaki, Christen Clifford, Amin Husain, Matthew Jensen, and Dread Scott at Livestream Public (195 Morgan Avenue, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn)
December 11, 2014: Memory and Place with artists Youmna Chlala, Jennifer Dalton, Andrew Ohanesian, and Bryan Zanisnik at BRIC House (647 Fulton St, Downtown Brooklyn)
Sharon Louden’s panel discussion between Julie Heffernan, Hrag Vartanian, Tony Ingrisano and Nathan Skiles at Montclair State University in the Finely Seminar Room of the Department of Art, Montclair, New Jersey (April 30, 2014, 5pm)
Moderator of “Walking in the Air: Art Criticism in Europe panel discussion about the current state of art criticism in Europe,” organized by AICA-International and EUNIC New York members at Cervantes Institute, Upper East Side, Manhattan (April 27, 2014, 3pm)
Christie’s Art Market Online panel at Christie’s Education New York (April 22, 2014, 6pm)
Art Review Panel — “January 2014: Christina Kee, Hrag Vartanian and Christian Viveros-Faune,” moderated by David Cohen at the National Academy Museum, Upper East Side, Manhattan (January 24, 2014)
“Banksy NYC — Is it Art or Vandalism?” at National Arts Club, with Carlo McCormack (moderator), Michael Holman, Chris Jehly, and Lois Stavsky (National Arts Club, Gramercy, Manhattan, November 1, 2013, 6pm)
“Critical Language: A forum on International Art English” at Triple Canopy, with Nathalie Anglès, Wenzel Bilger, Lauren Cornell, Mariam Ghani, Mostafa Heddaya, David Levine, Alexander Provan, Yael Reinharz, Alix Rule, Lumi Tan, and Hrag Vartanian (Triple Canopy, 155 Freeman Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, April 6, 2013) PODCAST
“Size Matters,” panel moderator with Gavin Brown, Peter Halley, KAWS, and Roberta Smith (FIT, Chelsea, Manhattan, February 26, 2013)
“Street Art,” panel participant with Angelo Madrigale (moderator), Buff Monster, Adam Cost (aka COST), and David Meade (Doyle Auction House, Upper East Side, Manhattan, September 19, 2012)
“Flux Death Match: Art & OWS” at Flux Factory, with Paddy Johnson, John Powers, and William Powhida and moderated by Douglas Paulson & Christina Vassallo (Flux Factory, 39–31 29th Street, Long Island City, Queens, March 21, 2012, 8pm)
Visiting Critic, Graduate Seminar, American University, Washington, DC (March 22, 2016)
Visiting critic, Sculpture Class, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, Rhode Island (December 16, 2015)
3 Critics, October visiting critic, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, Rhode Island (October 8, 15, 22, November 7, 2015)
Visiting Critic, round-table discussion with graduate students, Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), Minneapolis, MN (February 6, 2015)
Experimental live-art class (Professors Angela Dufresne and Jane South) at Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island (December 8–9, 2014)
Senior sculpture BFA exhibitions (Professors Curtis Mitchell and … ) at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York (May 6, 2014, 5pm)
2018 Wassaic Project jury
Little Syria Percent for Art Public Art Project in lower Manhattan
National Art Jurors for the 2017 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
2016 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics
2016 New York Studio School Alumni Exhibition, with Phong Bui, Paul Laster, and Paddy Johnson
2016 New York Pulse Prize jury, with Anthony Haden-Guest, Matthew Israel, and Larry Ossei-Mensah
58th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art, 2015
National Art Jurors for the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards
ArtPrize 2014: Time-based Art category
2014 American Alliance of Museum MUSE “Video, Film, & Computer Animation” category jury
2013 Smack Mellon Studio Program selection committee
2011 American Alliance of Museum MUSE “Video, Film, & Computer Animation” category jury
2010 Dumbo Arts Festival jury