Friday, April 15, 2005

Kick-Ass Article by Marc Spiegler


I gotta give Lenny a big thanks for pointing this article out to me. It's written by Marc Spiegler, who keeps an archive of his older articles here.

Basically, his point is that Art Critics have become obsolete. He goes through a number of examples, that all translate quite well here in Montreal. The only real fault that I could find, is that he doesn't really talk about the internet, or any of the other numerous new media that I would consider as having taken over from the old media that he calls (quite properly) obsolete.

I've had some time to give it a closer read, and while I still think it is a worthwhile read (way more worthwhile say than reading a copy of October) there are some things that need to be pointed out.

First and foremost, the picture that accompanies the article on the top

Just plain ridiculous and silly, don'tcha think?

Then, to lead into the article proper, the first quote is from Samuel Keller, who is this guy:

Can you say "cliché"?

His quote is to bemoan the lack of powerful critics these days. Specifically "When I entered the art world, famous critics had an aura of power." Oooh! those aura's are real easy to spot, aren't they? If taken from a slightly different angle one could almost say that Mr. Keller seems to wax nostalgic for the good old days, back when painters were painters and a good cigar was a smoke. Heck, back in the day Art Basel/Miami (or however it is punctuated) was just a gleam in its director's eye. The problem with his "complaint" and the thesis of the article is that the article itself lacks any historical overview. Everyone and everybody in it is referencing one period of time (roughly 1930-70) one place (New York) and then comparing it to their references for today. And then doing that badly.

In the second paragraph, Mr. Speigler complains about the lack of pay for Art Critics, ("Even the swankiest art publications, such as Art Forum, Frieze and Art in America pay only $100 to $150 per freelance review") Unfortunately, he's doing the old apple/orange switcheroo. For that $150 (US) those critics are writing something like 200 words. Somehow, I don't think that either Peter Schjeldahl, or Arthur C. Danto works for chump change. I'd love to know how much "the swankiest" magazines pay for a 5,000 word feature (or did I miss the boat, and they don't do those sort of things anymore?). Because those are the sort of things that Mr. Speigel is lamenting.

Then continuing my line of picking and choosing - Third paragraph: "Only a fool goes into the arts for the money, of course; prestige is the bigger draw." If prestige was such a big draw for the arts, then there would be no such thing as Canadian Art. Heck Quebecois art would have disappeared eons ago. He then quickly follows that with this: "For centuries, criticism functioned as the rough draft of art history..." He then mourns the passing of critics like Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) and Pierre Restany (1930-2003) as the passing of the "rough draft of history." Umm, I don't know how good your math is, but two dead guys from last century doesn't make for more than one century, does it? Am I missing something? I regularly point out to folk, that my knowledge of Art started in 1998. I've been playing catch-up since then, so is there anybody out there in the big ole internet who can point out some kick-ass art critics from the nineteenth (or hey, even the eighteenth) century? Please?

He gives lip service to the internet in paragraph four by quoting Tyler Green. However in an article about Art Critics, talking to Mr. Green would be the equivalent of me writing about hockey and quoting Garrett M. Graff about the Capitals.

I could go on and on and on (and I just might tomorrow, 'cuz this is fun) but I gotta still point out that despite his missing all sorts of marks, and not nailing a darn thing down tight. He still is right.

Addendum 6pm. Jeez! I spaced entirely. I forgot entirely about the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University and their studies about Arts Criticism in the US. Way more detailed, in depth, and while not exactly a fun read, very, very interesting. Try the one on the visual arts.

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