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What’s the point?

Mostly, to have fun. But also to see what happens when you cross the world of sports with the world of art. I’m a fan of both, and it seemed interesting to apply the rigid rules of the NCAA college basketball tournament to the much more nebulous world of art history.

I don’t know anything about art. Can I play?

Of course. I’ve tried to provide a representative sample of each artists work – just vote for what you like. And you probably know more about art than about college basketball, anyway.

What’s the format?

I tried to mirror the classic NCAA men’s basketball tournament structure as closely as feasible. So: 64 artists broken down into four historic brackets, and seeded 1 through 16. In the first round,  the No. 1 seed plays No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15 etc. In the second round, the winner of 1 vs. 16 plays the winner of the 8 vs. 9 and so on. I mixed the brackets so in the first round (and most likely the second round) the artists will face off against someone outside their historic era. The full 64-artist bracket is here

How did you seed the artists?

I wrote a bit about that here. Essentially, I tried to come up with what would be the consensus choices, based on fame, skill and significance. If you polled 100 art historians about the top 16 in each bracket, hopefully the result would be something similar.

Why did you choose those historic eras?

I could only have four, based on the NCAA structure, so they needed to be broad to include as many artists as possible. And I needed to have 16 artists that are widely recognizable in each, which eliminated ancient and non-Western art. 1400 seemed like a reasonable starting point. I ended it with pop art, because it was too hard to decide which artists after that would be in the canon.

That said, the choice of historic eras is a bit arbitrary and I could have broken them down into four other categories. Painters, sculptors, architects and photographers, perhaps. Maybe next year.

How come you put (artist X) in (bracket Y)?

Some just didn’t fit neatly, like Goya. Choices were made. Unfortunately, some artists probably fell through the cracks, like Klimt.

How come (my favorite artist) isn’t in the tournament? 

Again, choices were made and limiting it to 16 artists in each bracket resulted in some tough calls. I left out a lot of my personal favorites. If you think someone got screwed, ask yourself who you would take out?

What happens next?

After the close of the first round on Sunday, I’ll post the second round of 32 artists on Monday. Then we’ll reduce the field to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, and Final Four before choosing the champion in the first week of April. Stay tuned!

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