The editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian is an editor, art critic, curator, and lecturer on contemporary art with an expertise in the intersection of art and politics.
Hrag co-founded the publication Hyperallergic in 2009 in response to changes in the art world, the publishing industry, and the distribution of information. Breaking news, award-winning reporting, informed opinions, and quality conversations about art have helped Hyperallergic reach over a million readers and listeners a month.
In 2016, Hrag launched the Hyperallergic Podcast, which tells stories from around the world (iTunes). Some notable episodes have delved into the history of Surrealism in Egypt, the little-known story of female Abstract Expressionists, and front-line coverage of the artists taking part in the #StopDAPL action at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.
He helped champion a type of straight-forward online art criticism that believes in the power of journalism, while retaining a sensitivity to the cultural and economic realities that inform the world of art, culture, and politics. In May 2018, art critic Mary-Louise Schumacher wrote about the rise of Hyperallergic for Neiman Reports at Harvard University.
His curatorial interests are focused on theories and practices of decolonization, which is informed by his own experience of being part of a post-genocide diaspora. In 2010, he moved Hyperallergic into a gallery at Outpost in Ridgewood, Queens, to stage #theSocialGraph, the world’s first multi-disciplinary exhibition of social media-related art. In 2015, he orchestrated Jade Townsend’s Crazy Amazing Garage Sale exhibition at Auxiliary Projects, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The three-day liquidation sale of unsold art was an attempt to release the capital trapped in one artist’s storage unit — it liberated over $3,000.
In 2017, he kicked off a 10-year project exploring the contemporary legacy of Ottoman studio photography with an exhibition at Minerva Projects in Denver, Colorado. It included works by R. Caracashian, Dor Gues, Aram Jibilian, Gabriel Lékégian, Hrair Sarkissian, Gariné Torossian, Garo Varjabedian, and Akram Zaatari The book is forthcoming in 2022.
He regularly visits universities and colleges as a visiting critic, including RISD, Brooklyn College, UC Davis, Pratt Institute, American University, Vanderbilt University, Columbia University, and UNLV, and he has moderated panel discussions and juried exhibitions for various organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Ford Foundation, and Chautauqua Institution.
Beyond his writing and research, he is an avid photographer and collector of historical studio photographs. He maintains an extensive archive of mostly art-related images (15,000+) on Flickr, which he has uploaded under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
His original blog, simply named “Hrag Vartanian,” was very active between 2006 and 2010 and focused on politics, writing, and mostly art. The art blog had thousands of daily readers and included guest contributors. It was part of the Culture Pundits network.
You can also subscribe to Hyperallergic’s newsletter and for more information on the publication and his thoughts on art writing, you can listen to a 2012 interview he gave to the Bad at Sports podcast, a 2014 episode of The Conversation Pod podcast, or a 2017 conversation on Tulsa’s NPR station with artist Sharon Louden. He also has a person newsletter, and he promises to send more regular missives at some point but right now it’s pretty infrequent but you can always find him on Twitter.
He’s also prepared a “30 Things of Mine You Might Want to Read” list of favorite essays, interviews, articles, reviews, and opinion pieces for those who may have only recently discovered his writing.