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 on 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 an audience as high as a million visitors per month.
In 2016, Hrag launched the Hyperallergic Podcast and travels around the globe to uncover the evolving world of art (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 Standing Rock,
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 and quoted ARTnews’s Editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas as saying, “I think [Hyperallergic] managed, kind of against the odds, to reinvigorate art criticism.”
His curatorial interests are focused on theories and practices of decolonization and he prefers to work in unorthodox spaces. 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, Ottoman Gendarmerie, Hrair Sarkissian, Gariné Torossian, Garo Varjabedian, and Akram Zaatari The book is forthcoming in 2020.
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. It was part of the Culture Pundits network and the blog attracted guest contributors and thousands of daily readers.
You can also subscribe to Hyperallergic’s newsletter to receive his weekly ‘Letter from the Editor’ (every Tues.), which highlights the major stories of the day and includes reflections about current events.
For more information on Hyperallergic 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 chat for the Philbrook Museum and NPR with artist Sharon Louden.
He’s also prepared a “30 Things of Mine You Might Want to Read” list of favorite essays, interviews, articles, reviews, and op-eds for those who may have only recently discovered his writing or are still unfamiliar with his interests and work.