Get Noticed: Reposition Your Approach as an Online Exhibition

John Mitchell emailed me recently to say that he “curated one of two web shows for an art gallery in Adams, Massachusetts,” about comics. I had no idea what an online exhibition was until I visited them.

A group exhibition of webcomics curated by John Mitchell, featuring some of his favorite online works.

Hourly Comics Day 2008: A group exhibition of Hourly Comics created by the Trees and Hills Comics Group on February 1, 2008.

An online exhibition appears to be a blog — links, essays, and interviews — that you’ve convinced a museum to attach their name to. Which is very creative, to make what would otherwise blend into the bigger internet seem special by repositioning it in off-net terms. At the museum gallery itself, they provide a kiosk to see the online content.

6 Responses to “Get Noticed: Reposition Your Approach as an Online Exhibition”

  1. Elzevier Says:

    Online Exhibits are actually gaining popularity in the museum world. They offer an alternate means to showcase collections that there might not be physical floor space for. They also allow exhibits to live on after they have closed and are of course another form of marketing for attracting visitors.

    check out the Textile Museum:


    The National Portrait Gallery’s “Let Your Motto Be Resistance”:

  2. Johanna Says:

    That makes sense — and I can also see how they’re a way of showing art to those who can’t travel to particular exhibits, such as someone in Virginia who’s interested in a showing of Japanese art in California.

    I guess what makes me scratch my head at this one is that it’s not an exhibit of physical things but of webcomics. They’re already available to everyone online by definition. Setting up an exhibition just seems like a fancy way of trying to make one person’s link list seem more important.

    Thanks for the examples!

  3. John Says:

    Actually, Johanna, you have to consider who the web site is aimed at. It’s a contemporary art gallery in the same region as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (biggest contemporary art museum in the country) and pulling from the same visitor type. In other words, these are not people who would routinely think to look at a web comic, let alone think of it as art. That gallery, for instance, has other digital art exhibits on its web site – you’ll see if you go poke around – and the point of these two is that it presents comics in the same context as those other shows.

    Having kiosks in that gallery and another one means that people who visit other, non-comics shows will have the opportunity to be exposed to some of this work even though they might never care to outside of that experience.

    Here in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, there has been a small movement to include comics in the realm of contemporary art and this is just really a small first step on my and the gallery’s part – hopefully all our efforts will not remain digital. My neighbor is Howard Cruse, who shows his work around here a lot, and was part of a very nice graphic novel show at the Norman Rockwell Museum that also featured Jessica Abel, Dave Sim, lots of others.

    Also, this spring, Mass MoCA will have a show that all the work is entirely presented in graphic novel form.

    So for us, it’s just a matter of promoting an art form that we love – the gallery owners have both worked in comics, as well as myself and my wife, and our tastes cross through that and the gallery art world. There is some snobby resistance on the part of the gallery world toward not just cartoonists, but illustrators in general. Many of the web cartoonists involved are eager to show their work in a “physical” show here – as am I. The web incarnation may help that happen!

    Oh, fyi, I didn’t convince anyone to do this – the gallery came up with the idea and ask me. Every week for the past couple years, I’ve reviewed graphic novels in my paper here – my understanding is that it’s a very unusual thing for a daily paper to do. But that’s one of the things I’m best known for in this region, so it doesn’t surprise me that they would ask me, they know how passionate I am about promoting comics as an art and literary form.

  4. Johanna Says:

    I saw the show at the Rockwell Museum! It did have a feel of “whatever we could get because it’s in introduction” to it. Not that it’s a bad thing, but as someone who knew what a graphic novel is, I expected a little more of a theme or similarities among those exhibited.

    Thanks for explaining a bit more of the background.

  5. John Says:

    Yeah, that’s the thing – even as graphic novels are pushed by mainstream publishers and comics creators are profiled in the NYT, it’s still kind of an illusion that they’ve “arrived,” so public presentations are bound to have an “intro” quality to them. That will hopefully pass with time.

    And sometimes single artist shows work to greater advantage – just last summer, there was a nifty show of Joe Staton artwork in Pittsfield, MA that got a bit of coverage and was actually so successful the gallery held it over for a month.

    Actually, though, when asked to do the web comics thing, I insisted on interviews being a part of it, since that might give people already familiar with this stuff some area of interest in taking a look – plus, it gave me an excuse to chat with people whose work I like, always a bonus.

  6. Digital Strips: The Webcomics Podcast Says:

    […] notion of an online exhibition of webcomics makes Johanna Draper Carlson scratch her head at Comics Worth Reading, but there is an explanation […]




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