With "Readymade," Tumblr Aims to Become the Art World's Social Network

With "Readymade," Tumblr Aims to Become the Art World's Social Network

Social media giant Tumblr and art world PR firm FITZ & CO are teaming up to unveil Readymade, a new theme for customizing and controlling Tumblr page layouts that was tailored specifically to meet the needs of art museums, non-profits, and galleries. The sleek, minimalist theme was crafted by design house Pixel Union for maximum customization and an uncluttered look that subtly evokes the art world-favored white cube aesthetic. It represents Tumblr's most concerted effort yet to woo the art industry.

The initiative was spearheaded by Tumblr’s Annie Werner and FITZ & CO’s Susi Kenna (one of our art world social media pros” to watch). To make sure the feel was right, the two consulted with museums and galleries that have already embraced Tumblr before the design process began, ranging from LACMA and MoMA PS1 to Lehmann Maupin and ForYourArt (all of whom now run on Readymade).

“There’s been a wide, varied range of feedback,” says Werner. “Mostly people wanted something very clean that brought out their content over the design of the theme. They didn't want it to feel too designed or flashy.”

They also parsed countless existing Tumblr themes — the customized layouts that dictate the organization, presentation, and formatting of content on the social media platform’s front end — currently being used by art organizations and artists.

“I sat down and went through a hundred Tumblrs across non-profits, cultural organizations, galleries, artists, across every different sector that exists on the site right now,” Kenna explains, “and really did an in-depth breakdown and audit of how people were using it.”

The result of their year-long endeavor, only six weeks of which was spent actually creating and fine-tuning the theme, is a mode of presentation that privileges images and videos. It also lets users hide the nuts and bolts (metadata like timestamps and tags) that appear on many Tumblr blogs, creating an elegant, slideshow-like experience.

But Readymade’s greatest asset may be its ability to function as an adjunct to or even a replacement for organizations’ existing websites. LACMA’s Tumblr, which recently switched to the Readymade theme, already boasts “Now on View,” “About,” and “From the Collection” sections, like a conventional museum website in miniature.

“Some of the features, like the ‘Featured Post’ section and the ‘Gallery’ section, speak to some of the functionalities that are pre-existing on a lot of art websites, but make it much easier to update because it’s just a Tumblr post, and it’s a matter of tagging,” Werner says. “So if you didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars to update your website every few months, you can just do this on the theme.”

With Readymade’s slick aesthetic and robust functionality, Werner and Kenna hope the theme will help persuade organizations that have been hesitant to join the social media platform, which is arguably the one best suited to presenting contemporary art. “A big part of this whole initiative was the outreach portion,” Werner says. “We wanted to have launch partners that would use the theme, some pre-existing on Tumblr and some that would be using Tumblr for the first time. We wanted this to be a big on-boarding initiative for us.”

And what about the Duchamp-alluding name? “The name had to be something that would, without question, resonate with the art world community and distinguish it immediately from the other themes as art-world specific,” Werner says. “But even if you don't know what a Readymade is, even if you’re not an art world person, it’s like, 'Here’s this simple thing that's just ready for you to make your own.' It’s catchy.”