What’s up Winkleman?

January 31st, 2007

The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest

Has art dealer Edward Winkleman become a cultural icon? If so, it seems we should pay attention to what he is saying . . .

But first, here are some other things worth reading:

  1. The Intrepid Art Collector, probably the worst-titled book ever. If you are an artist, don’t walk, run and buy this book. It is for you — it could be titled “What every artist should know about the art world.” One of these days I want to talk about it in depth here on Art & Perception. I interviewed author Lisa Hunter back in September.
  2. What’s in a name? If you want to see the power of words to frame, check out this diary on dailykos (it’s political, but it is a must-read from a “perception” standpoint.)

Now, back to Ed. Birgit recently referred to Edward Winkleman as a “cultural icon.” What does that mean, anyway? I consulted my copy of Wikipedia and found what is probably the shortest article in the whole encyclopedia:

A cultural icon is an object or person which is distinctive to, or particularly representative of, a specific culture. An example is the bowler hat, which could be considered an English cultural icon. John Wayne would be an example of an American cultural icon.

By this definition, Ed is a cultural icon of the art blogs; here are a couple of his recent posts that illustrate why:

  1. Looking for Fairness in the Age of Art Fairs: Ed asks, has the art world become a merit-free hedge fund?
  2. Losing My Assumptions: Ed asks, if art is about communication, is art not intended to communicate not art?

Giving the importance of the concept “cultural icon”, I found the Wikipedia article a bit short. I decided to contribute by adding Ed.

[UPDATE: A Wikipedia editor removed Ed again with the comment “(Edward Winkleman a cultural icon? ….)” I guess our subculture is not sufficiently developed to be recognized as having cultural icons.]

. . .

23 Responses to “What’s up Winkleman?”

  1. David Says:

    Karl, I’m sure Edward would be flattered and amused by the distinction. I’m a regular reader of his stimulating blog, and also had the pleasure of meeting him the last time I was in NYC. He’s a nice guy, very soft-spoken and unassuming. Of course on the blog he treats us to a great rant once in awhile, which, along with the many opinionated and often entertaining commenters, keeps things lively. In fact I met you on his blog, as I recall. Or more specifically, I saw a comment you made and clicked on your name, and ended up in a discussion here at A&P about whether art school is a good investment.

    So I’m glad you’re recommending his blog, but I think it’s a mistake to call him a cultural icon. Not because of whether it’s true or not, but because I think the label (just like “genius” or “movie star”) tends to make someone larger than life, and gives them a false authority that gets in the way of good conversation. Ed’s a smart guy, and he’s delightful to read and to discuss things with. But his point of view is no less flawed than yours or mine, and he’d be the first to admit it (okay, maybe not the first). I mostly think of him as a gracious host, who knows how to get people talking.

    Let’s keep him human :)

  2. Karl Zipser Says:


    Edward’s art blog was one of the first that caught my eye and held my attention. With time, I found that others were also influenced by his blog. For example, in my interview with Jordan Grumet, I learned that Winkleman’s blog inspired Dr. Grumet to make a paradigmn shift in his blogging. The change was sudden, dramatic, and delightful (as you can see yourself if you look back at Grumet’s blog). My statements about Winkleman’s influence are not entirely based on my own perceptions.

    I never thought of Edward as a cultural icon, but when Birgit used that expression, it somehow had a resonance with me. I’m sure if I knew Ed in person, that mystical quality would be dispelled (cultural icons always require a certain distance and mystery to retain their status as icons).

    Of course his point of view is no less flawed (in principle) than that of others. Of course he is human. But as a blogger, in our particular subculture, I think he has attained a special distinction. If art blogging can have cultural icons, then Ed would be one of them.

    Is it a mistake to have cultural icons in general? That very well may be, but I’m not responsible for Ed’s status, if he has one, and I see no harm in discussing the issue. If he is a cultural icon, it is important to know it, for exactly the reasons you mention. If he is not, no blog post by me will turn him into one.

  3. Steve Durbin Says:

    Must-read from a “perception” standpoint? Gimme a break! I’d say this dilutes any intended recognition for Winkleman.

    So I’ll have to counter that by noting he at least satisfies one requirement of an icon these days, coming out basically at the top of a Google search on his last name. One site is higher, but the spelling there is Winkelman. I guess a lot of people misspell it in their links.

    But back on the other side of the ledger, I read Winkleman regularly, whereas I shun all other known cultural icons.

  4. birgit Says:

    By icon, I did not mean to only convey the impression of glamor

    …(just like “genius” or “movie star”) tends to make someone larger than life, and gives them a false authority that gets in the way of good conversation.

    I meant it also in the sense of a gold standard for honest discussions about the world of art.

  5. D. Says:

    Brigit recently contacted me and asked if I would make a Guest Contribution. I wavered but then agreed as I had a vague idea of something to do, but that something has not really worked out so I came up with another idea when I read this post about Cultural Icon which I found interesting because I have no interest in Cultural Icons.

    Last year I was at the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy with my family. The amount of artwork there is over-whelming. I was over-whelmed.

    At one point, needing to find a focus, I asked a guard: of all the work here, which one was his favorite? He took a moment and then pointed at one. Okay… I could tell it was not a favorite, at least in the way I was thinking about it. I asked him: but do you have an absolute favorite? He thought and then I followed him into another room. He went up and looked closely and then stepped back. There. It was a very small (and very lovely) portrait of a lady made by a teacher of Rapheal. He said he apprecitated it because it reminded him of someone he once knew.

    Ever since then, when given the opportunity, I ask guards what they think of the work around them. Their answers are, for me, always enlightening.

    Are there any “guards” here reading this who would be willing to share their feelings about the art that they find special?

  6. David Says:

    Karl, you are a cultural icon.

  7. Edward Says:

    I agree with David’s last comment.

    In fact, knowing how many people read, but don’t comment on blogs, I feel those who do actively participate (writing and commenting) are bigger celebrities than they might realize to the art blog reading community as a whole.

  8. Steve Durbin Says:

    David, what are you smoking in LA? Is this a bad air day?

    I nominate Karl as a cultural acorn. He’s the seed from which our glorious A&P has grown.

  9. David Says:

    I don’t know, Steve, so far Karl has two votes, one from me and one from EW. You have to start somewhere. What’s that saying about mighty icons growing from tiny acorns?

    Karl, if you’re not a full-fledged icon yet, you’re on your way! Please remember us :)

  10. Steve Durbin Says:

    I nominate Hello Kitty as a cultural icon.

  11. David Says:

    Are we going to have categories?

  12. David Says:

    …one requirement of an icon these days, coming out basically at the top of a Google search on his last name.

    Google search for Zipser

    #6 and #7 out of 416,00

  13. Steve Durbin Says:

    Not bad, especially if Karl is into hotels. If you search Technorati tags, Zipser blows Winkleman away 7-3. Blog posts go the other way, but A&P is at the top for Winkleman as of this moment.

  14. David Says:

    Not bad, especially if Karl is into hotels.

    Isn’t that how Paris Hilton got started?

  15. Steve Durbin Says:

    I’m on page 3 googling Durbin, if you take out the senator — only fair, since we’re clearly not in the same cultural circle. Does that make me 33% an icon?

  16. David Says:

    Google search for Steve Durbin

    4, 7 and 8 out of 1,070,000!

    Steve, it’s all about numbers. Karl’s last name generates 417,000 hits. Yours brings up over 5 million. Use you full name and you do pretty well! I’m in the same situation.

  17. Karl Zipser Says:


    It is inevitable that a popular blog in whatever one’s particular subculture is the one to compare to. In our subculture, Ed holds a prominent place, whether we want to call him a cultural icon or just a great blogger. Comparing his blog to Art & Perception to is a good way of getting perspective on just how good Ed is. On Art & Perception we currently have between thirteen and fifteen contributors, depending on how you count. We as a fairly large group can sometimes — sometimes — match what Ed does regularly as a solo blogger.

    You caused Hanneke a laughing fit yesterday, Steve. In Dutch, acorn, in reference to a person, is slang for “butthead” (actually, something even less polite…)

  18. Steve Durbin Says:

    Waarom veronderstelt u dat ik het geen Nederlands spreek? Just kidding…

    Karl, you’re right about Ed, of course. More importantly, I enjoy and respect his blog, and I see it linked to from other blogs I enjoy and respect. Whether we call him an icon or not, we can learn a lot from him as artists and bloggers. The advantage of a group blog like A&P is not only the number of post producers, but the number of regular, thoughtful, and diverse commenters, as exemplified by…hmmm, well, some days are more thoughtful and diverse than others. It’s all David’s fault, for which we’re grateful. Last time I was the victim with my chocolate chip cookie picture.

  19. David Says:

    …well, some days are more thoughtful and diverse than others. It’s all David’s fault, for which we’re grateful.

    Steve, are you saying I make things more or less thoughtful, or more or less diverse?

    Actually, it doesn’t matter. Your mention of the chocolate chip cookie picture has made me hungry. I’m going to go find something to munch on. Hopefully some acorn hasn’t already eaten all the cookies.

  20. Leslie Says:

    “I nominate Hello Kitty as a cultural icon.”

    Well, yeah, DUH! Although it may make Birgit squirm:)

  21. Steve Durbin Says:

    David, I’m saying you add humor, which is always welcome! It seemed a bit of a slow day otherwise.

  22. birgit Says:


    By now, I have gotten desensitized. Or perhaps, I don’t care because I am munching on the most delicious cookies in Nina’s house, baked by her mother-in-law for Max’s brit

  23. Leslie Says:

    MMMM. What a good diversion! Do they remind you of Steve’s photo?