The next day, we did make it to some farther-flung and more sparsely populated places, like Lefferts Gardens and Ditmas Park, but for the most part our experience was indicative of what some artists considered to be a problem with the event: that high-density neighborhoods had a built-in advantage. Even the coordinators of the event admitted to staying local. Ms. Atkins started in her neighborhood of Windsor Terrace and made it to the low-density Kensington, but that was close by; Ms. Bernstein trekked through Red Hook, where she lives.
“It’s starting to feel like a popularity contest,” said Jeffrey Sims, an artist in Bedford-Stuyvesant. And the problem of artists sending out their codes via Twitter and Facebook only exacerbated this. “It’s hard enough for emerging or unknown artists not living or working within a high density area of artists to get visibility,” Mr. Sims added later over email. “The actions of Tweeting the artist codes makes it even harder.”
ArtPrize, it’s worth noting, suffered from the same problem last year when The B.O.B., a 70,000-square-foot building packed with studios, got the most traffic.
“Many of the top 10 [artworks]—praying mantis, crying driftwood octopus, living statue guy—were from there,” said Matthew Power, who wrote about ArtPrize for the September 2012 issue of GQ, “and it was pretty clear that it was due to a huge foot-traffic advantage.”
Screwball Spaces was the B.O.B. of Go Brooklyn. A sprawling brick building in Gowanus, it has some 80 studios, the highest number of any single participating venue, and saw nearly 1,600 visitors. “Maybe 300 people came to my studio,” said Julia Whitney Barnes, who works in Screwball. “There was so much stimulation. It was 18 hours of talking.” On Saturday night, while artists in other neighborhoods were bemoaning the weather and the MTA service disruptions on the F and G subway lines, Screwball Spaces threw a keg party.
Ms. Atkins shrugs off the possibility that the high density/low density divide could have affected the results. “I think there will be a lot of surprises in who the winners are,” she said.
But even in high-density areas, there were complaints about how Go Brooklyn went. “I fucking sat there for a long time,” said Brian Willmont, a multimedia artist in Greenpoint. He thought Greenpoint’s own annual open studio event, where he got roughly 100 visitors in just four hours, was much more successful. “I’m usually like a ringleader of a circus engaging five people at the same time.” He estimated that he got around 60 to 80 visitors during Go Brooklyn. And only two of them bothered to check in.
Not all the artists in the low-density neighborhoods, meanwhile, fretted about votes. Many were grateful for the exposure, no matter how meager. “People from real Brooklyn are never included in these events,” said Marie Roberts, a Brooklyn-born banner artist in Coney Island who was happy to have had 25 visitors.
Artists weren’t permitted to sell work during the event, which riled some participants. “It was a little bit self-serving,” said Mr. Willmont. “It felt like it was more about the Brooklyn Museum than about the artists. They tell you you’re not supposed to sell work in your studios. Who the fuck are they to tell me what I can or cannot do in my studio? What are you doing for me? Absolutely nothing.”
But despite the complaints and setbacks, the numbers from Go Brooklyn are impressive: Out of nearly 10,000 registered voters, 6,106 checked in to at least one studio. But the total number of check-ins was a whopping 48,918, and the actual number of people who made studio visits was close to 147,000. (That’s because only 30 percent of visitors were registered—the other 70 percent were people who wandered in off the street, or knew the artist.)
It’s possible the Brooklyn Museum will come under fire once again, this time for abdicating curation, not to the judges on a reality TV show, as it did two years ago when it agreed to host an exhibition for the winner of Bravo’s since-cancelled Work of Art, but to the general public. In the meantime, for many artists, attention mattered far more than votes. Daniel Freeman, who displayed paintings of Sarah Palin and Clint Eastwood (sans chair) in his Lefferts Gardens brownstone, used to exhibit alongside Keith Haring back in the 1980s. “I’m just happy to be able to engage with an audience again,” he said.