20 January 2011

Aftenbladet vs art

Stavanger artist Ingrid Toogood Hovland started a debate in the regional newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad about their coverage of visual contemporary art. Recently Aftenbladet launched a weekly magazine about culture, setting the hope that now art and culture will get more publicity. Toogood Hovland is disappointed, seeing that the cultural coverage mainly consist of meeting nice old ladies playing with paint in their spare time in their own basement.

This was followed up by an article by Hege Warberg-Nilsen, posting some important questions. Do we need the newspaper to tell us which art is good and which is not? Does only art made by established artists with art education count as good art? Her opinion is that Aftenbladet is covering the cultural environment well.

I agree with Hovland in that Aftenbladet has a disappointing lack of coverage of important artists, exhibitions and art events. Although when they do choose to cover an exhibition, it is well done. But I notice that several important exhibitions remain unnoticed in the press. This was also one important incentive to start this virtuallwallworldblog. My intention was to contribute to a wider coverage of the art scene in the Stavanger region and beyond.

Although it was probably not intended, Ingrid Toogood Hovland indirectly attacks the not-established artists and venues, and also the viewers. I can agree on Warberg-Nilsen's reaction on that. It is not always easy to distinguish between important and mediocre art, between potentially important and stagnating artists. Sometimes this distinction is not important, while the viewer's perception of the artwork is. Although I do agree that there should be more focus on the dedicated "full-time" artists than "hobby-artists" in the cultural section of the newspaper.

I do not know if the scope of cultural coverage is based on an editorial choice or a result of lack of resources. I hope the editor of Stavanger Aftenblad will response to the articles, saying something about the newspaper's vision on the art field. Hovland is still hoping for a change in Aftenbladet, for it to become an important information channel on art. Is art depending on the printed newspapers? How will the art be affected the day Aftenbladet decides not to write about art at all, only about football and celebrities?

Is it not rather passive to wait for the journalists to come and write? The information age provides many possibilities to publish. The information on the webpages of the galleries and artists is becoming more and more important. The marketing of exhibitions is more precise through newsletters and facebook than an advertisement or article in the paper. What is left is the critic of the exhibition. But is it crucial that it is published in Stavanger Aftenblad?