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The Most-Read Articles of 2016

An Austrian New Year’s Eve tradition that I recommend goes something like this: melt some metal, drop the molten material in a cup of cold water, remove it, look at the resultant shape and predict the next year. Molybdomancy, as it’s properly known, is a popular form of divination across Nordic countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Don’t worry if your metal blob looks like a bomb: that actually means you will escape danger. If it looks like a ball, though, it means you should keep your bad mood to yourself. How do you determine between a bomb and a ball? Use your imagination.

In many ways, looking at web analytics feels akin to molybdomancy, but with a retroactive cast. Trace the strange shape (of quality? Timeliness?) from an obscure series of categories and numbers, and try to divine some meaning about the past year from them.

When assembling the most-read articles of 2016, we have selected pieces that had the widest circulation—the most “unique pageviews.” Of course, there are alternate, possibly more useful, metrics. There could be an entire rejoinder series: the articles readers spend the most time on page with, the articles readers returned most frequently to, the articles readers shared the widest. But unique pageviews are the industry’s dominant measuring stick.

These articles offer a selection of readings with broad appeal, and clear themes emerge: celebrity, cultural appropriation, parenthood, funding and proper representation. It’s worth noting that several of the stories are from earlier in the year; they’ve had more time to percolate, to be fair, than offerings in the past two or three months.

But even if they’re older, they’re worth revisiting. There are lessons buried in here for 2017, as the dominant themes show no sign of losing traction. Celebrity and politics (and one particular combination of both), for starters, will undoubtedly rule headlines in the year ahead.

1. Truduea’s Tattoo, Times Two

Haida artist Robert Davidson spoke to Rosie Prata shortly after the election, stating that he was largely amused by Trudeau’s tattoo that replicated a piece of his art. After seeing Trudeau change his tune on several key pipeline negotiations, though, Davidson re-evaluated his position, noting that, “By selecting that image, he must uphold the responsibilities that come with that image. He must bring light to the world. That light cannot be only superficial—it must go beyond Trudeaumania and must have substance…. Otherwise, it is cultural appropriation.”

2. Finally: An Artist-Fee Calculator for Canada

“Traditionally, figuring out the artist fee for an exhibition in Canada has not been an easy task,” writes Leah Sandals in this report. Perhaps, the desire for an artist-fee calculator to streamline the negotiation process was even more desirable than CARFAC and RAAV, non-profits that advocate for artists’ rights, realized.

3. Annie Pootoogook: 1969–2016

There was no shortage of coverage of Annie Pootoogook’s passing, but little of this coverage was translated in Inukitut. Heather Igloliorte’s moving tribute to the hugely influential artist reflects on her indelible mark on the face of Inuit art, and enormous artistic legacy.

4. Yayoi Kusama Comes to Canada

Worth keeping an eye out for in the future: the famed immersive installations of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama will be travelling to Toronto in 2018. And, if there was any doubt, the numbers on this 2016 article prove that her retrospective will be hugely popular.

5. 10 Indigenous Artworks that Changed How We Imagine Ourselves

Richard Hill’s columns were an ongoing source of accessible yet deeply researched and thoughtful writing about contemporary Indigenous art throughout the year. And, while they were across-the-board popular, this compilation of Indigenous artworks “that changed how we imagine ourselves and our place in the world” drew particular attention. It’s scholarship that embraces the subjective, and benefits all the more for it.

6. On the Parent-Shaped Hole in the Art World

Maibritt Borgen’s review of “The Let Down Reflex” at EFA Project Space in New York raised some of the difficult questions faced by parents in the art world, where event attendance outside of 9-to-5 hours is expected. Does your local art gallery provide child care? Can a kid’s bedtime routine double as performance art? And more.

7. 8 Ways the Canada Council’s New Plan Affects Artists

Funding is always a hot topic, but when the federal government announces large increased to the Canada Council’s coffers, and news broke that the organization’s granting budget will double to $310 million over the course of the next five years, the spending priorities are of deep public interest. Some of the implications of these changes, both positive and questionable, are addressed by Leah Sandals and me in this piece.

8. Whose Idea of North? Lawren Harris at the AGO

Combine celebrity (Steve Martin) with Canadian legacy (Lawren Harris) and you have a recipe for attention. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s blockbuster summer show, which reflected on Harris’s idea of Canada, drew large crowds, but what new insights were offered? Here, David Balzer, Merray Gerges and I consider the framing and work on view.

9. Ken Lum on Canada vs. the USA

Ken Lum is one of Canada’s best known artists—what does that mean now that he lives in the US? Lum considers the difference between Canadian and American art identities and art markets, a topic that will undoubtedly be of perennial interest, especially as these perceived differences come to play an even larger role in the process of national identity-making.

10. 8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Art and Disability

2016 was something of a banner year for the Deaf and Disability Arts movement across Canada, with the opening of vital institutions, nuanced exhibitions and the convening of important conferences. Here, Eliza Chandler, artistic director of Tangled Art and Disability, speaks with Leah Sandals about this progress, and the change that still needs to happen.

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