The blurb listings in the New York Times on Fridays in the Arts section are no better, mostly because they hardly ever stray from the major museum exhibits or a select few gallery shows of photography. The list is always tightly edited, with very few surprises, since the blurbs are drawn from longer articles (features and blurbs from Art in Review) that were previously published. But for someone trying to figure out what photography to go see this weekend, they're only really helpful if you've missed something extremely obvious.
And then I thought about the Art related blurbs in the Goings On About Town section of the New Yorker - essential reading, but once again imperfect I'm afraid. This isn't because Vince Aletti's photography reviews aren't the best thing going, but mostly because they vanish from week to week, and unless you are an extremely vigilant reader, it's hard to remember what Vince said about a show he reviewed three or four weeks ago (unless your favorite gallery has kindly emailed you a copy); this is especially true of long running museum shows which may have been blurbed months ago. So in any given week, while there are 4 or 5 fresh reviews, there is really no way to see the entire expanse of what he has reviewed or use his reviews to make prioritized decisions on what to go see.
Other listing options include the website The Two Percent (here), which uses a promising aggregation approach (a grid which tallies which shows have been reviewed by which major publications) and Photograph magazine (here), with its simple but comprehensive listings of photo shows and venues. The challenge with the former is that there is no way to tell whether the reviews being tallied were good, bad, or indifferent, and there are typically only a handful of photography shows in the mix, so it's hard to draw too many insightful conclusions from the data; the challenge with the latter is that even though it generally includes everything that is out there on view, photography-wise, there are no ratings, so it provides no help in separating the wheat from the chaff.
The more I thought about this, the more it seemed entirely crazy to me. This is New York, the hypothetical center of the art world. How can there be no weekly listings that actually deliver value via thoughtful, systematic opinion? That you would actually use to plan your Saturday gallery tour of photography?
Regular readers here will know that I consistently visit and review photography shows at local museums and galleries. So I've decided to try and step into this newly identified void with a concise checklist of every photography show I have reviewed that is currently still open, to be updated on a weekly basis (adding new reviews and removing those for ones that have closed). Of course, this approach also has it's flaws, the major one being that shows I haven't yet reviewed aren't included in the list; the list is inherently tied to my quirks of timing. Each entry is painfully simple: rating, followed by artist, followed by venue, followed by closing date, followed by a link to the review if you want more context/detail, all sorted by by neighborhood and closing date (closest first). I hope that it gives you a clear answer to the cocktail party questions I get constantly: so what photography shows should I go see? What's the best out there right now? Depending on where you are, or where you're going, my answer is below. Print it out, stick it in your pocket, and start checking them off.
ONE STAR: Between Here and There: Met: February 13: review
TWO STARS: Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand: Met: April 10: review
TWO STARS: The Mexican Suitcase: ICP: May 8: review
TWO STARS: Todd Hido: Bruce Silverstein: February 12: review
TWO STARS: McDermott & McGough: Cheim & Read: February 12: review
ONE STAR: David Allee: Morgan Lehman: February 19: review
ONE STAR: Stuart Hawkins: Zach Feuer: February 19: review
ONE STAR: Richard Misrach: Yancey Richardson: February 19: review
ONE STAR: Sam Samore: D'Amelio Terras: February 19: review
ONE STAR: Jeri Eisenberg: Kathryn Markel: February 26: review
ONE STAR: E.V. Day: Carolina Nitsch: March 5: review
SoHo/Lower East Side/Downtown
ONE STAR: Sam Lewitt: Miguel Abreu: February 27: review
ONE STAR: Paolo Woods: Anastasia Photo: March 5: review
No current reviews