September 27, 2009

Introducing “Who This?”: an art ID experiment

As a guest columnist for the next four months, I am now taking submissions for a new blogging series entitled “Who This?” consisting of images of contemporary artworks posted by collectors who have forgotten who the makers are. Face it, what art lover hasn’t picked up a work from a local nonprofit auction only to realize a while later that they’ve lost the darn piece of paper that lists the artist’s name? And, heavens, the artist didn’t sign it in the first place, relegating themselves to unending obscurity. Or maybe your roommate moved out and left behind something that they had collected but neglected to fill you in on the details about. So now you sit, stumped, wondering… “Who this?”

That work sits anonymously in your possession, like a lost soul. Is it famous? Is it minor? Who knows? Come out from the shadows and let the rest of us, a savvy viewing public, help you in identifying who the heck made it. Collectively we are a smart bunch. I’m sure we can figure it out. Think of this as a very minor contemporary version of Antiques Roadshow.

Let US help YOU help YOURSELF in knowing just what you own.

To submit to “Who This?” please email me a clear image of the work in question (stephaniesyjuco at, and any supplemental info you may have on it: what auction or situation did you get it from? around what time? any distinguishing markings? etc. This will be posted in the next installment of “Who This?” You, however, must be the owner or acquirer of the work and be in a real dilemma as to knowing who the artist is. We, the readership, will offer you the service of putting our heads to it. Please, no jokesters in the vein of submitting non-goth photos to the website “Goth or Not?” In other words, don’t try to fake us out with fake art or something. This is real and sincere and we seek to help you.

Thank you.


Comments (2)

  • Stephanie Syjuco says:

    Rudolf, nice anecdote. I’m really interested in the collective nature of recollection, assumption, and attribution when it comes to artwork. Your example of sifting through archives and trying to remember reminds me of all the times I attempt to describe an artwork to someone else but have forgotten who made the thing and what I wind up saying is something like, “you know, that felt-like cutout thing that’s large scale and hangs on the wall. I think he’s Dutch, maybe.” Usually someone else’s brain database is better than mine and we can figure it out, but the dialogue of trying to get there is funny… On a slight aside, If you personally have anything in your collection that could be a part of “Who This?” that would be wonderful! But then again, it sounds like you occupy a space of being able to find out already 🙂

  • Rudolf Frieling says:

    It also works the other way round in archives. You know you have a specific work but can only find it physically in your database/archive if you remember the title and thus the corresponding file. And this is where networking comes in. Other people will remember once you describe the work. Honestly, has happened among subscribers to the American Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).

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