For its upcoming exhibition “GO: a community-curated open studio project,” the Brooklyn Museum is asking the public to play curator. On the weekend of September 8-9, over 1,860 registered studios across Brooklyn will open their doors to scores of intrepid amateur critics. Those who visit at least five studios can vote for their favorites online; Brooklyn Museum curators will select the final works from the 10 most popular artists’ studios. “This is really about artists opening their doors to neighbors,” Sharon Matt Atkins, the museum’s managing curator of exhibitions, told ARTINFO. “There’s also an element of surprise,” added Chief of Technology Shelley Bernstein. “We genuinely don’t know what will happen.”
The idea for the exhibition, which will be held from December 1 to Feburary 24, was inspired by ArtPrize, an annual publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as well as the long tradition of open studio events held each year throughout Brooklyn. “The Brooklyn Museum has always been committed to Brooklyn artists,” noted Atkins, pointing to the 2004 survey “Open House: Working in Brooklyn” and this year’s “Raw/Cooked” initiative, a series of exhibitions by five under-the-radar artists in the borough recommended by a committee of five established local artists including Mickaelene Thomas and Ron Gorchov. “This seemed like a great way to reach more artists working in Brooklyn than we would be able to in any single project.” The artists who have registered their studios with “GO” stretch beyond the traditional neighborhoods associated with artists, extending from Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick to Midwood, Crown Heights, and Sheepshead Bay.
Any crowd-curated exhibition brings with it a fair share of skepticism, particularly from those who believe exhibitions should be the product of trained connoisseurs rather than everyday culture vultures. But museum officials maintain that the structure of “GO” requires a level of commitment that should weed out passive observers and careless voters. “It’s not the like/dislike process of Artprize, where there is an immediate reaction to what you see,” said Atkins. “The way we are constructing voting requires that you take time to stop and consider how you’re making a choice,” added Bernstein. “That’s a different model than most of what we’ve seen.”
Still, the curators will make the final call, and they are not guaranteeing how many of the shortlisted 10 artists will ultimately be included in the exhibition. (“Anywhere from two to 10,” said Bernstein, noting that the curators will have to make decisions based on the scale of each artwork.)
Previous crowd-sourced exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum set the stage for “GO.” In 2008, the institution mounted “Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition,” a photography show in which nearly 3,500 community members evaluated the work of 389 local photographers. The exhibition was a turning point for Bernstein, who was shocked to notice how invested viewers became in the project. “People were spending three and a half hours rating photographs,” she said. “This participation goes much, much deeper than the ‘like’ button.”
To browse the studios and register to vote for "GO," click here. The exhibition's open studio weekend takes place September 8 and 9.
A version of this article appears in the September issue of Art + Auction.