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With the art market dictating so much of what happens in the art world it would seem that the role of the art critic has become almost redundant. Sure an art critic can give their opinion on whether an artwork fulfills it's purpose but considering that there are no set, universal factors or aspects with which to compare is there any purpose to critiquing an artwork?

Nicholas Forrest

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It was once said that "writing about art is like dancing about architecture."

I love this quote but I can't fully agree with the feeling of uselessness that it's supposed to invoke. I'm not an interpretive dancer–but if I was–maybe I WOULD try to dance about architecture. But would anyone come to my recital? A critic is an artist and as such she works to get people behind the philosophy that she invokes.

It's certainly true that professional critics don't play the central role that they used to, their monopoly of information spreading has been opened up and democratized. But I still like to read what they have to say–the good ones, but the pompous ones bore the shit outta' me. If writing is just another art form, then critiquing is a discipline that mates two art forms. My personal favorite is Matthew Collings. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Collings His take is more personal, he questions himself and lets himself go off on tangents, which is more in step with today's popular culture. He's kind of a lowbrow critic of the high-brow.

Everyone IS a critic, it's just that some people's opinions don't rise above the general public's observations. "Tell me something I don't know."

Don't we all love this one: "My 2 year old could do that."

But I like what Inga has to say: "Critics and artists can have a symbiotic relationship because each can inform the other of new directions and concerns. Good artists take what they need and ignore the rest."

Have you ever read an artist's statement? If you were able to stay awake through all the idealism and loft aspirations, the multi-syllabic pontifications, and the self-indulgent puffery, you might like to read, instead, something that a WRITER wrote about the work. They're simply artists specializing in words.

"Better to be a word man, never a bird man." –Thank you Jim Morrison.

I noticed this post and I would like to participate in the question.
Well... art criticism still makes sense.
The importance of it depends on how it's being used.
If you go to a gallery and you ask for information about the artist, the gallery staff will probably give you an artist file full of reviews from art critics - like the artist's work is justified or even legitimated by the words of those critics.
It's not new that galleries "invite" (or pay) art critics to write about the exhibition.
The question that this raises is if the resulting text can still be considered a critic... probably not.

Nevertheless, nowadays it's hard to find a review where the writer doesn't explore solely the positive aspects of the work.
Judgments are very rare and sometimes when they exist and when art critics justify their thoughts are not understood - and get some discredit from the people who have interest that the work from that artist is good (all stakeholders: gallery, collectors... the artist).
There are always people which have bad opinions and other good.

I strongly believe that the "fall" of art criticism happens due to the readers. Honestly, I don't think nowadays people are very interested in strong opinions.
Everybody feels they have enough knowledge about the work; or on the other hand, they really just don't care. But if there's someone saying it's a good work, that legitimates the work and destroys any doubts that the potential buyers had towards that work.

Art is still considered kind of marginal by a majority of the population who can't "read" it (or are not interested); if the people involved are too "critic" about the activity developed inside it it won't be good to anybody. Adding to this, there's an historical sense of injustice - History (Art one) proved more than once that some artists once rejected by their pairs were considered genius some decades or centuries after and I think that today, art critics know that and they try to not interfere in the process of the artist development and let things take their course.
Basically, they just create documentation for future generations.
Of course this is a personal opinion and very generic. Some art critics are known for writing exactly the opposite of what I just wrote, but they belong to an endangered species.
Yes, there most definitely is purpose to critiquing an artwork. Art is about creating a dialog with it's viewers, sometimes that dialog is more profound than others. Sometimes it's subtle and needs coaxing. Often the critique is the conduit to a meaningful discourse on issues in art, or the issues the art is hitting upon.

On a professional development level, there are many artists who are producing fantastic work and with the attention of a well written critique from a respected critic, their work will get the attention it deserves for the good of the audience and the artist.

And yes, there is always purpose in looking at something, taking it apart and really looking at it. Asking the question: Does it successfully accomplish what it set out to do? Why? Why not? We all learn from that. There is always purpose to learning.

Kind Regards,
Kate Vrijmoet
The art market is always going to dictate what happens in the art world since it offers tangible and quantifiable value to artists and their work. When have there ever been set, universal factors with which to compare art works? Quality is not always in parallel with cash value, and critically acclaimed work doesn't always sell. This critique is an important part of creating art work from the artist during the production - and equally in a viewer's response to work when installed.
There is certainly still value in critiquing art work, as otherwise it is reduced to superfluous decoration. See my article on q-art at http://www.q-artlondon.com/article_archive/critical_distance
then read my blog at http://www.goodasdead.org

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