(penned this tonight in response to a question regarding the state of art criticism…
what do you think – do you read art criticism if you are interested in the arts – why/why not…)
As an outsider to the art criticism scene, I have very little to reference beside what I Googled to find out what has died.
One of the first names to come up was Murdock Pemberton, first art critic of the New Yorker during the 20s and 30s. He eventually was sacked because (what I could discern) he was inconsistency, too many interest, a rebel and panned an important art show. Reading his bio reminded me of another rebel, Guillaume Apollianaire, who started writing criticism during the early 1900s in French papers. He championed Cubism, his opinionated, often surreal writing ticking readers off in the process.
What is interesting about both of these art critics was their link to the artists, to be immersed in the art scene, not as critic alone, but as a friend and confidant. These friendships seemed to benefit the critic and the reader – politics aside. It offered for a unique perspective, not just of the critique of a friend, but it widened the circle for insight into other artists. Their writing was original, informed (though not of a traditional pedagogy) and highly controversial. Controversy drives readership – interests, it is a good thing. (More current, one could name Frank O’Hara)
What if print/newspaper criticism is dying? Does it have a reflection on art’s health? It seems that the problem of the critic in the traditional form (after reading the links provided for this week) is the pedantic, dry presentation (this, of course, excludes Saltz, who inspires me with his snarky, yet informative shtick). The writing is good, but is it inspiring? Does it sell papers? Papers are doomed anyway because, “there’s an App for that”…
…into digital land…blogs, tweets, FB, Google+, etc…. but, then one posits, is that critique informed? A valid question and concern, but in the same vein, does it matter? What is the point of art criticism? Is it to sell the art? Is it to promote the gallery or museum? Or is it to inspire the public to remember that there is a creative element to our human spirit that needs to be seen and shared? I know this is rather a romantic notion, but really, art needs to be more accessible, to us outsiders who will not be waiving a paddle in the air at Christie’s. I’d like to think online venues help to level the playing field, and catch a few who may not have even known they were interested.
(sidebar…It is interesting, I’ve followed online poetry criticism for the last two years – there is such a fire within that community. One inflammatory post by a critic (usually from the academe) in say, Boston Review, will have the insiders and outsiders spewing for months….on poetry. It is rather amazing.)
I’m an outsider right now to art, but, I do hope that this type of fire is burning. That fire is what continues the conversation and invites new ones. After all, art is not dead.