As we continue into the new year, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on what resonated with readers in 2014. Here, we have selected 10 of our most-read articles and features from the past year.
A quick perusal of analytics software reveals that any web metric is flawed. (Other publications have also noted this.) Defining “most read” becomes a highly subjective act: do unique visitors take precedence over repeat readers? Does an open tab suggest a thoughtfully savoured essay, or a forgotten item on someone’s to-read list? More often than not, these numbers provoke further conjecture instead of answers.
We have opted to use one of the more popular indicators of online success: unique visitors. Perhaps the clicks were mistaken, but the content and strength of the material that coincided with high levels of unique visitors bolster the statistic. Even with every imperfect metric thrown aside, these are stories worth rereading.
The 10 selections offer a wide-ranging overview from the year in art and provide a roughly drawn portrait of Canadian Art’s online readership. Concerned with the role of Canadian artists domestically, our readers kept watch on artists’ struggles with the National Gallery of Canada and shrinking gallery spaces. Our readers wanted critical, considered responses to events that veered towards the patronizing and the spectacularizing, like the exhibition “Art as Therapy” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and iterations of Nuit Blanche across the country. They cared about broad institutional questions regarding the function of art criticism, but also valued the highly personal in the works of Alex Bierk and Alex Colville.
In sum, the selections present a broad-reaching, yet still searching, sampling of art writing in Canada. We hope you enjoy revisiting them in 2015.
- Artists Win Appeal Against National Gallery
Last year, CARFAC and RAAV won their appeal against the National Gallery of Canada in the Supreme Court of Canada, with judges unanimously concluding that the gallery should continue collective negotiation with artists.
- Only Connect: What’s Wrong with “Art as Therapy”
“Art as Therapy,” a museum project by writer-philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong came to the Art Gallery of Ontario with a trail of searingly negative reviews. Despite appreciating the project’s aims, David Balzer found its outcome prescriptive and confining.
- Nine Thoughts on Running a Gallery—Without a Gallery Space
The pressures of increasing real estate prices and the seemingly omnipresent effects of gentrification continue to face artists and art institutions across the country. Last year, we spoke to one of Canada’s oldest artist-run centres, Eyelevel Gallery, who had recently gone spaceless, and gathered the lessons they learned in the process.
- The Closer You Get: An Interview with Peter Doig
2014 was a hugely successful year for New York- and Trinidad-based painter Peter Doig, whose retrospective at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal garnered almost 100,000 visitors. In this interview with John Bentley Mays and Benjamin Klein, Doig discusses influence, art criticism, fantasy and more.
- Peter von Tiesenhausen’s Green Actions Challenge Oil Country
Whether constructing a building out of salvaged timbers or creating artworks from same, Peter von Tiesenhausen’s ethos sets him apart in Northern Alberta. Reporting on his 2014 solo exhibition “Elevations,” Robin Laurence looked at the artist’s environmentally focused work, and his commitment to the Demmitt Community Centre.
- 10 Thoughts on Why Nuit Blanche Has Triumphed—and Tanked—Across Canada
Over the past decade, Nuit Blanche-style events have spread from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. In 2014 Canadian Art looked at the draw effects, and attempted to account for some of their many pros and cons.
- Alex Bierk: When Addiction Becomes Art
2014 was, for better or worse, the year when the ongoing political saga of Rob Ford’s mayoral candidacy hit international headlines, and questions of addiction and enabling loomed large. Leah Sandals reflected on Alex Bierk’s “Pitfalls and Withdrawals,” which resisted impulses to romanticize the addictions that so often accompany art careers.
- Performatorium 2014: Queering the Prairies
Perforatorium, Regina’s festival of queer performance, held its third edition in 2014, leading J.J. Kegan McFadden to ask: Is all performance queer? If so, what does it mean when enacted in Regina, one of Canada’s most violent cities?
- Alex Colville: Love in a Cold Climate
An AGO retrospective of the late painter compares his work to contemporary films, but love and survival endure as Colville’s greatest themes.
- The Role of the Art Critic, Reconsidered
2014 also offered a chance to look to the past: Alison Cooley ventured into the Canadian Art archives, and found a 1966 Canadian Art survey about art criticism. She posed these questions to contemporary arts workers, with interesting results.