Monday, December 19, 2005

The Verdict

A while back I responded somewhat knee-jerkedly to the suggestion by Jerry Saltz that dealers needed to pump up the attitude in their spaces to bolster the sluggish energy of the contemporary art scene---oh, everyone agrees it's as massive as a brontosaurus, but the problem is it feels like it's lumbering along like one too---by suggesting each person in the art world has their own role to play and Jerry's part in the revolution he called for was to focus on art criticism. My exact words were:
I think Jerry's misguided. Why focus on how gallerists and such should seek out new forms to house it? If there's new content, let it speak for itself. Better yet, let it dictate the form and/or exhibition space. The problem isn't a lack of "attitude" among gallerists (are we on MTV here?), the problem is a lack of context within the wider art world...and I don't mean new exhibition models...I mean a critique. As Jerry notes himself:

In private many say most of the shows they see are safe or conservative. Yet most reviews are enthusiastic or merely descriptive. Too many critics act like cheerleaders, reporters or hip metaphysicians. Amid art fair frenzy, auction madness, money lust and market hype; between galleries turning into selling machines, gossip passing as criticism and art becoming a good job; the system, while efficient, feels faulty, even false.
But rather than critiquing the system, Mr. Saltz, why not critique the art? You're absolutely right that most reviews are enthusiastic or merely descriptive. Even as a dealer, who wants enthusiasm in reviews of our exhibitions, I'm bored to tears by the overall critique of contemporary art. You want a rebellion? Start one!
Now, I mean in no way to imply that Jerry has ever read my ramblings here (I'm sure he has more pressing things to do), but as fate would have it, he's done what I had called for (even better actually): he's taken on his own profession...and how:

The most interesting critics make their opinions known. Yet in most reviews there's no way to know what the writer thinks, or you have to scour the second-to-last paragraph for one negative adjective to detect a hint of disinclination. This is no-risk non-criticism. Being "post-critical" isn't possible. Everyone is judging all the time. Critics who tell you they're not judging or that they're being objective are either lying or delusional. Being critical of art is a way of showing it respect. Being subjective is being human.

"Yet people regularly say, "You shouldn't write on things you don't like." This breaks my heart. No one says this to theater critics, film reviewers, restaurant critics, or sports writers. No one says, "Just say all the food was good." Nowadays, many see criticism mainly as a sales tool or a rah-rah device. Too many critics enthuse over everything they see or merely write descriptively. This sells everyone short and is creating a real disconnect. People report not liking 80 percent of the shows they see, yet 80 percent of reviews are positive or just descriptive."
Others around the blogosphere are giving Mr. Saltz high marks for this clarion call (including Todd Walker's insightful take here), so I won't parse the entire thing, but one idea did jump out at me when reading that last quoted paragraph.

I think there is an expectation in the NY art world that reviews should be positive. I know I emotionally expect them to be when I'm told one is coming out for an artist in our gallery. Intellectually I totally get where Jerry's coming from here, but practically speaking a bad review seems so extraordinarily mean in the current climate it makes you wonder what you did to the critic.

Look back at Jerry's comparison: "No one says this to theater critics, film reviewers, restaurant critics, or sports writers. No one says, 'Just say all the food was good.'"

The difference (or at least it seems that way to me) is that most restaruants, plays, films, and sporting events can generally expect a review. Think of the cast of a play or the producers of a film that just released rushing out the next day to grab all the papers...they rush only to see whether the review was good or bad, not whether there is one. The mystery for them is "Did the critics like it?"

With art, in New York City, there's no such guarantee you'll ever know, even when you know they saw it, even for the largest artists or most powerful galleries. If The New York Times, for example, on average, publishes 7 major reviews and two articles in each Friday edition, that totals about 470 reviews each year. The problem is there are more about 470 exhibitions per month*, meaning that more than 11/12ths of all exhibitions will not be reviewed in the Times. For the Village Voice, the number of reviews is fewer than half that. So if you are the lucky artist who gets a review, you've already beaten incredible odds. At that point, for the review to be unfavorable seems almost cruel.

I don't know what the solution here might be, though. I can barely digest all the reviews I read now, so I don't think more reviews are the answer. Perhaps things have to go the way Jerry suggests: reviews should be more critical across the board, even when the critic genuinely likes the work, so that artists too can wake up like children on Christmas morning and rush to the press to see whether they got what they hoped for or not. In other words, so it's not a given a review is going to be favorable and the art of art criticism can reclaim its impact on the dialog.

*Calculated on an estimate of 450 galleries in the greater New York City area, and 20 other exhibition spaces that hope to be reviewed.


Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...

Good post Edward!

The question I ask is, what is the value of a review if they are all positive? Is it valuable that one was written? Does that mean the show was good (the lucky 1/12th) whereas all the other shows are necessarily bad? Surely that can't be right.

Lenny Campello, a gallerist and blogger here in DC, has done an informal study on the value of reviews for art sales. He suggests there is no connection between a review and a show's sales.

That leaves the future value of that line on the artist's resume for future shows. You know, fill out the resume. That doesn't seem like it's worth the loss of criticism.

There are truly great shows out there and there are awful ones. I hope critics write about both. The great get rewarded and the awful get reprimanded. Maybe it will help wake up the artists...

Fun to think about regardless.

12/19/2005 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Most critics are well-trained to handle an art world characterized by movements and a linear sense of history. We're into something else; not sure what, but movements and linear history aren't a part of it. With no movements and no standards, it's no wonder critics are reluctant to commit.

12/19/2005 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger crionna said...

He suggests there is no connection between a review and a show's sales.

Which I guess says good things about the value of the gallerists and their knowledge of their clientele.

How different from film, literature and music.

12/19/2005 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Jerry Saltz made an interesting point when he said, "The agenda needs to be set by artists, not the market. Supply-and-demand thinking has to shift to production-and-experience thinking." From The Battle for Babylon

jt, what are you implying with your remark "Maybe it will help wake up the artists…"

bill, you suggest "Most critics are well-trained to handle an art world characterized by movements and a linear sense of history" I don't think that is the problem at all. If one thinks the problem lies in the area of criticism then we need to dig a little deeper than that to find out why.

Crionna alludes to an interesting issue with "How different from film, literature and music" Yes, what promotional model does the art world want, the Hollywood model, the recording industry model or the literary model?

12/19/2005 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

George, my comment about critics wasn't to blame them for everything. (My comment broke the flow, sorry).

I think an outdated art critical paradigm has one part to play. But the entire machine, in my view, is running on seriously outdated paradigms.

Each of us -- artists, critics, curators, gallerists -- can point fingers and blame one another. But ultimately the problem is that art itself has changed substantially in its essence. No one has addressed this in a comprehensive, intelligent way.

12/19/2005 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Evan said...

Fuzzy Math: Jerry Satz gets a critical review

Jerry Satz is Woody Allen by way of Bill O'Reiley and Michael Moore. At once pedantic and condescending yet empowered by a sense of righteousness. He has a very charming and likable demeanour that masks more problematic positions. Mr. Satz's brand of criticism is like Fox's brand of journalism: heavilly slanted and questionably motivated.

Just because he painted a couple of pictures in the eighties doesn't make him "down" with artists. He is in fact no more or less a friend than say Ken Johnson, the only difference is he show's up to more parties and writes for a looser rag. He is a critic who perpetually blurs the line with his viewers. Like at thanksgiving when your uncle asks you if he can come hang out with your friends afterwards. The little kids think you're cool but the older ones know you're just a creep. It's weird, please stop. Artists don't need an avenger critic who fails to recognize their role in the problem. That's like a blind person with a gun trying to protect you. Thanks but we'll be fine on our own. Please refrain from writing long articles that criticize the system w/o accepting your role in it. It's insulting.

I don't have enough space to go on a litany of J.S inconsistences but I'll mention a few that particularly irritate me: Satz spent a fair amount of energy between 2000 and 2003 reviewing young artists, some as we know, were still students :Katherine Berhardt, Tim Gardner, Hillary Harkness, Dana Schutz, Jules DeBalincourt, Keegan McGuargue ect... Many of their careers subsequently blew up. By 2004 he had taken it upon himself to chastize an art world obssesed by youth. He went as far as to claim that the curatorial decisions for the recent PS1 greater new york gave off a "whiff of pedaphilia". Many of the artists he had earlier supported were included in this show. His "critical gaze" then turned towards the art market itself. End result: much verbiage was wasted by shifting a much needed dialogue away from art in order to bitch about the market. This really helps nothing. Not to mention it creates feelings of being left out of a system that no one is really part of unless you are Larry Gagosian or Stephen Cohen. Dealers still work really hard to sell art, and artists still work really hard at making it. Acctualy in Saltz fashion, I hereby declare a moratorium on critics who see it fit to complain about the "hot, hot" market. Stop now. We all know that you are just jealous because you're not going to see any of this money in your wallets any time soon.You picked the wrong proffession, get over it.

I hope that Satz goes back to his his study, or wherever he ponders, and closes the door behind him and does some soul searching over the holidays. Why does he do this and what does he want from it? A desperate need to be in the art world is unfortunately not enough.

12/19/2005 08:23:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...

I meant that artists today seem to have their success measured only by sales. I refuse to believe every artist who sold out at ABMB, for instance, makes work that's actually worth the price paid (I know that's a sketchy statement, but bear with me). If collectors buy any and everything hoping to hit it big (spray and pray technique, for example), then who is honestly critiquing the artists?

Bad artists need to know how bad they are... that way they can wake up.

12/19/2005 08:55:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

bill, your comment was fine for a start. Frankly I don't think the problem is precisely tied to art criticism. In my opinion the problem might just be the influx of unprecedented sums of money into the art market following the economic bubble of the nineties. Throw buckets of chum in the water and see the sharks red foam.

jt, yeh, I was pulling your chain a bit. The money issue is part of it but I think it cannot be used as an arbitrator of quality. Over the long haul, a decade or three, the auction markets do sort it out but it's not relevant to the case here.

Quoting Saltz again "This time last year I wrote that the art world had passed into what I called a "Super Paradigm" period, by which I meant a phase of continual growth." This sounds suspiciously like the famous October 1929 quote made by a Yale Professor of Economics, Irving Fisher, "Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

12/19/2005 09:19:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Relevant to the discussion is Barry Schwabsky review of "Art Since 1900" at The Nation

12/20/2005 12:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Person said...

Evan, you rock. I agree with everything you said. Saltz's criticisms are so galling, seeing as he himself does nothing but prop up the system he indicts. It is beyond irritating. As far as art criticism goes, it's a tough one. Each publication has it's own editorial decision-making, certain shows that may be pitched by the writer are nixed by the editor because they are not at the "right" gallery or the artist is not going to have some kind of overall consensus of coolness. I had the experience of writing reviews as an artist at a magazine and couldn't believe what would go on. Negative adjectives in one case were eliminated or turned neutral. And Saltz's idea that artists create camps and fight against each other's ideologies is unrealistic. Artists should write reviews, absolutely, they should say what they think. But the thought of possibly hurting the careers of people who are our real allies and possibly our friends is really a problem. It's all so incestuous. The thing is, in the world of theater and restaurants, the criticism is different because all the players aren't hanging out with each other all the time.

I am confused. I feel like Saltz is continually blaming the victims, those who are struggling to eke out a living. And meanwhile Jerry will continue to gladhand like a politician and try to have dinner with all the coolest artists in town. Sounds fun.

12/20/2005 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

great opening rants folks! I love where this thread is going.

It's all so incestuous.

Yes, it is. And it's much much more oligarchical than most people realize. Nothing to be done about that but claw your way through the barriers, at least for the non-artists involved. For the artists, family certainly will open doors, but I know a few children of famous artists whose own work just sucks and they're not getting anywhere at all, so there's some integrity in the system.

12/20/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't agree with everything that evan says about saltz, but he does raise a good question at the end. A lot of people in the art world (critics, gallerists, curators) are would-be artists who gave it up. Some of them happily found their "true path", or at least a better fit for their skills and sensibilities, but some of them are hangers-on who are just trying to stay at the party. I personally don't think Saltz is only in the latter category (maybe he's got one foot in both camps; wants to be part of the cool scene, but also has some interesting things to say). I know a few artists who started to write reviews with the express purpose of gaining more power with other artists and dealers, hoping to get their own work shown in a quidproquo situation. Some turn out to be good writers, but not all. I think everyone who is part of the art world should ask themselves why they are there.


12/20/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think everyone who is part of the art world should ask themselves why they are there.

well, I'm there for the free'm supplying the free booze...nevermind.

I totally agree o. In fact that was the essence of my comment in the previous post. Of course it's the writer's job to report what the rest of us are doing/talking about, but I think in the context of suggesting a revolution is needed, it's best not only to for everyone who is part of the art world to ask themselves why they are there, but to focus on their part's role in why things feel the way they do. That's why I'm pleased to see Jerry doing exactly that in this latest article.

12/20/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous J said...

It's true, we need to question why we are here constantly. Artists deciding to write in order to get "ahead" or particpate more fully in the artworld is in some cases good, some cases not so good. It depends on the artist and depends on the writing. It's nice for the artist to have something to offer once in a while, rather than only needing, needing, needing.

Why are we here? Because we think we have something valid to say. Something true or trying to be true anyway.

12/20/2005 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry Saltz tries and he does have some interesting things to say about the flawed social structure in the art world. However there is blood on his hands. He needs to smarten up even more. Does he not realize the level of argument and conversation, raising of real issues and complaints that are being raised on the blogs? I don't think he does. And if he were really doing his job in this day and age he'd be visiting all the art blogs as well as going to the galleries. I hope Jerry reads your blog someday, Ed. I hope. It would be great to see him weigh in on the debate right here.

12/20/2005 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

Saltz is to be commended for taking stock of his own profession and taking it to task, but when he tries to place himself above the fray he loses credibility. For instance, his yearly rant about the artworld is entertaining to read, but his tone reeks of having coming down from a heavenly pedestal. This sort of posturing seems especially self-serving and reminds me more of Charlie Finch, Jed Perl, or even Clem Greenberg. Does Saltz really want everyone else to write more critically, or is he just looking for some recognition of his own self-perceived genius?

Tyler at MAN seems to be heading into this territory himself. His obsession with 'GawkerForum' smells like an inferiority complex. In his latest blog entry (related to this post, if you haven't read it already) he takes a similar stance to edward_ in commending Saltz's critique, but the tone is entirely more condescending. I've noticed this more and more in his posts as his blog gains more notoriety. GawkerForum is an easy target to make fun of as art criticism because I don't think it was ever intended to be considered as such. It's horrible, yes, but not to be confused with serious criticism. BTW, the strength of Tyler's blog is his investigations into art world shenanigans (like Barnes or ArtForum's conflicts of interest) but not his art criticism (which is often dull, even sophomoric). Perhaps he knows this and is trying to compensate (he needs a comment section like this one to keep him honest!!).

My point is that when Jerry or Tyler write these sort of condescending rants, critical of their colleagues, it sounds more like self-serving posturing and only adds to the problem. If they want to contribute to a better environment of art criticism then they should lead by example by writing better reviews. Saltz is certainly capable of doing this but is often sidetracked by his own quest for attention.

12/20/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

1.) I'm loathe to respond to anonymous snipers, but.... by the standards of an anonymous commenter no criticism or discussion of one's peers would be in bounds.

2.) It would be helpful if the anonymice would be a little more specific: Take my recent Nick Nixon review, for example. What there was sophomoric or dull?

3.) Comment boards on blogs are not about keeping the blogger honest, they are about puffing up the commenter.

12/20/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

I don't agree.

It's true that Saltz helped build and then support the system he's now critiquing. And he does show up at all the parties and try to hang with the artists, which tends to water down his power as an objective critic. But I don't think that's the real problem.

The problem is that people with any power in the art world alternate between criticizing the rest of the system and kissing ass in order to further their own agenda - it's a lack of integrity, not a lack of skill.

One thing I'll defend about Saltz is that he is willing to put himself out there, change his mind (in front of everyone), dig deeper, and show his confusion. He could easily have become defensive, but instead he offered a constructive argument as to why criticism is failing in the current art climate. Maybe it's bullshit, but he sounds like he's almost willing to take his own advice.

12/20/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Person said...

Tyler, some comments are about propping up the commenter, sure, but some are about pursuing an idea in a thorough way. It depends on your temperment, maybe, but obviously this forum is productive and thought-provoking for lots of people, it's too bad you don't allow such a thing on your blog, I agree with the above stated.

12/20/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

I should add that I'd welcome it if the anonymous poster (or anyone else) would email me. Everything I say has my name on it and I publish my email address. If you have something to say, say it to me and with your name on it.

12/20/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

1.) WebCrimson (AJ's software) doesn't have a comments feature.

2.) My email address is there, right up top on MAN. If you have a comment, email me. It's not like there's no outlet for commenting on a post on MAN.

12/20/2005 12:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think tyler has gotten way too big for his britches too. He used to be way more interesting to read before he went all bloomberg on us. It's not that the content has changed so much as the attitude, the little asides, the giving condescending little scolds to Carol Vogel, the frequent references to his own influence and importance. And Tyler, people comment anonymously because they can be more honest that way. I wouldn't want to say this with my name on it, because, call it cowardly, but quite honestly, why would I want to alienate you or piss you off? I might need you on my side one day.

12/20/2005 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Saltz said "If criticism is in trouble, as many say, it's because too many critics write in a dreary hip metaphysical jargon that no one understands except other dreary hip metaphysicians who speak this dead language. "

It seems like we're skirting the issue by dealing with personalities. Does anyone else agree that "criticism is in trouble"? If so, why? What do we expect from critical writing?

12/20/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

But if you think those things about me, why would you want me on "your side" anyway?

12/20/2005 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous JJ said...

A critic isn't much of a critic if they do not risk being completely off base. So what if Jerry championed some people whose careers blew up? He's championed many we don't remember because they faded away.

That is normal, his critique on the market seems partially driven by the knowledge that a formula for adolescent art has established itself partly in mimicry of those artists he championed (Schutz is different she points out the cancer... ie a lack of ideas by including so much cannibalism).

Still, I contend that critics arent so much of an issue... it's mostly the artists who simply arent all that radical.

Murakami was radical and curated other artists to support his essays for Superflat (way back then). I havent seen many artists since who can comment so intelligently on the culture that spawned them. What has happened since then?

12/20/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh come on. We all want people on our side, people who have a platform, people who can get the word out about our work. But i didn't mean to be so mean. I still read your blog, there are still lots of good reasons for reading it. I just meant to say that your success seems to have changed you a bit.

Not that this is the same as a negative critique, and yes, people who put their name on their published work have more integrity and are to be taken more seriously than anonymous commenters, but in a tiny way, your reaction is why people don't write more critical reviews. They don't want to upset and anger, and hurt the feelings of, people that they hope to continue to do business with.

12/20/2005 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

This is just a transition period. The market is healthy to a fault. There are tons of coddled MFAs who enter the art world too high up & too soon. There is an overall lack of integrity and overload of youthful confidence. But the pendulum will swing back - first with cute backlash (already happening), then with rebellion, then with real, informed commentary. There will be new critics, ones who witnessed the transition, who will help us understand what happened - and there will be rotten, bitter ones who we can dismiss and/or make fun of.

12/20/2005 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

"I just meant to say that your success seems to have changed you a bit."

Maybe. I don't know. Nice that someone thinks I've been successful. But between your anonymity and the lack of substance/supporting examples, it rings pretty hollow. Figure out the criticism, support it and put your name on it and we'll have a real conversation.

12/20/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not everyone wants to be quite so publicly a blogger personality or a critic but they still have critical opinions. Tyler seems a bit controlling, that's all. Fastidious. But that's part of his charm.

I am so tired of people saying the state of this or that is so bad. It's always bad. Everything is always bad, critics, artists, gallerists, everything and everyone. The ratio of bad to good will remain forever the same. But I am not suggesting complacency in reaction to this, just that these generalizations are ridiculous and pointless.

One thing that's great about Jerry Saltz is that he stirs people up like this. I far prefer his articles complaining and indicting himself to his so-called art criticism. He is a social critic, a cultural critic much more successfully than an art critic.

12/20/2005 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My post just got disappeared, so I'm reconstructing here:

Tyler, good response. I'm sure it's not easy to be attacked in public and have to defend yourself to a nameless accuser, and I probably coudn't have done it so gracefully. I probably will not take you up on it and put my name on it and have a real conversation, but your point is well-taken. And look on the bright side: people perceive you as successful and even the ones who have criticisms still read you!

12/20/2005 12:41:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

jj comments.. "it's mostly the artists who simply aren't all that radical."
While I understand what you are alluding to I doubt just being 'radical' is a solution. Too often this ends up taking the form of spectacle or entertainment, fun for the moment but like Chinese food leaving you hungry later. I think Saltz' observation "discerning the original from the derivative, the inspired from the smart, the remarkable from the common" and of course Ed's persistent search for the truth are better benchmarks.

12/20/2005 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Oh gosh. I'm late to this discussion and just read Jerry's piece. It seems harmless enough and reminds me of the brouhaha about grade inflation. It seems to me the critical-not-crtical-enough argument is off the point a little. I think it's the quality of the writing that's usually lacking. What means something to me in a review is that I get some new insight into the artist and see someting I would have missed on my own. Sometime this takes an evaluative form, which is fine, but should be secondary. I just want the thing to be interesting and thought-provoking. I guess it's obvious I'm an out-of-towner, because I don't really care about the political intrigues.

12/20/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Artist said...

Have to agree with you, PC. It's about the writing. Why does criticism have to be all about thumbs up or thumbs down. Why not write to illuminate the artist's intentions, if you are interested, or hold them up to their own criteria and judge the work on its success or failure based on its own terms, not always the terms of the (ick) "artworld." Not an out of towner, but this is how I feel too.

12/20/2005 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


in other words, tone it down folks, please. if you have examples of criticisms, please to provide them, but I happen to share Tyler's response to anonymous comments. It's easy to offer an opinion no one can hold you accountable for...and that pretty much diminishes that opinion's value in my book.

I wouldn't want to say this with my name on it, because, call it cowardly, but quite honestly, why would I want to alienate you or piss you off? I might need you on my side one day.

That's trying to have it both ways, I'm afraid. It displays a lack of integrity as well. Let the cards fall as they may (or whatever the metaphor is)...if you're right...sign your name to it. If you're not so sure, perhaps it's best to qualify your criticism a bit so it's not so harsh.

Oh, and I will shut down the comments if civility falters. Take deep breaths before posting, please. I encourage truth, no matter how ugly it is, but there are civil ways to illustrate the truth and because it's often a matter of opinion, it's best to sign your name.

Even if only you choose a pseudonym so we can all keep track.

12/20/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

All this said, you wouldn't believe the email I get. Here's from one clown who has been peppering me for two days:

"Spiral Jetty: a new access road".

Well, sure! You want a highway or a freeway? Or maybe
a turnpike? Three or five lines? With easy access for
heavy trucks and RV's? Maybe a Holiday Inn and a
McDonald's for your convenience?

I am so sorry a rugged desert road caused you trouble
and discomfort. Your royal majesty does not deserve
being mistreated! I'm thinking a helicopter landing
right on the Jetty would be just fair for you, your
ego and your necessities. Don't you agree? Just ask.
Paved road, hotel-by-the-lake, restaurant, spa.
Whatever will make your viewing of the monument easy
and pleasant. Well of course that would violate Robert
Smithson's vision and conception of the isolated
wilderness of the Utah desert! But who cares? The
Jetty should accommodate to Mr. Green, not Green to
the Jetty!

I assume the whole road lined with signs saying
"Spiral Jetty", "You're closer", "You're almost there"
and the final moronic one right in front of the piece
saying "SPIRAL JETTY" were not enough for you.

Next time you may want to just stay at home and watch
the video Smithson made for lazy critics. Forget about
the dusty trip threatening to ruin your preppy sassy

Also, you should whine a bit on your journal. Maybe
Dia Foundation will buy you whatever you need and pave
whatever road you need- just to shut the <<<<>>>> out
of you and your tantrums.

Have a nice day.


Mr. Aggressive Writer is afraid of telling me what
kind of "new access road" he wants for "Spiral Jetty"?

C'mon! Put a bit of balls on it and write to me. Don't
be afraid. The truth will make you free.


Good excuse. It will sound just fine for losers. I'm
sure you won't mind I post on my blog about this.

* Famously aggressive, bully Tyler Green demands new,
easier road to "Spiral Jetty".

* Art writer mocks him, demands explanation.

* Suddenly coward Tyler Green cannot come up with an
answer, cites excuse to avoid facing the issue.

It will be an interesting story, with lots of guts and
sensationalism and blood, the way you like it.

12/20/2005 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hmmm...sounds like a Utah tax payer to me...nothing makes folks as irrational as that as the fear they'll be charged for something.

Either that or someone who doesn't want other people to actually visit Sprial Jetty or who owns a local transmission repair shop

12/20/2005 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

well, I'm there for the free'm supplying the free booze...nevermind.

Hold on. Just a few weeks ago you agreed that the reason was "to get laid." Now, which is it?

12/20/2005 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

"Get yer front and rear axles here!"

Another art criticism issue and one that Jerry didn't bring up: Art writing/criticism is too New York-centric.

12/20/2005 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Well, I'm jumping in quite late - it's great that Saltz's piece has provoked as much response as it has - but I just wanted to add a few things.

1) Jerry Saltz is an art world personality and though this may compromise his criticism in the eyes of some, I think Jerry fights the good fight in this regard. After all, he has panned the work of some of the artists he sups with - admittedly, rarely - and anyone who is willing to put themselves in the other (gender neutral) fella's position will recognize how difficult this can be. Ideally, I suppose, the critic would exist somewhere "above" the unwashed masses of artists, but if the critic loves the art, they're apt to love the artists and want to involve themselves.

2) Several commenters bemoan an apparent lack of integrity in the contemporary Art World, both on the part of the artists and the critics (and, for that matter, the collectors and dealers). Such a critique is justified, but I'm not so certain we should so quickly attack Saltz for his "flip-flopping." After all, anyone who writes (or thinks) a great deal, regardless of subject matter, will sometimes change their minds.

3) I think Evan is harsh on Saltz, but he does make some good points about the incestuous nature of the Art World. Quite frankly, in an era when 98 percent of Americans list "shopping" as a form of entertainment (which scares the shit out of me, but, then again, I loathe fu*king shopping), it's not surprising that it's become difficult to distinguish the contemporary Art World from any of the other "creative industries." I think it useful to return to David Denby's late 90s critique of Hollywood, in which he described the industry as a merger of adolescent attitudes and corporate values. This all goes part and parcel with the sociological buzz words of the day: infantilism, consumerism, terrorism, and the like. We're more interested in dull clapping and shiny smiles than substance, and this applies to both criticism and the art work itself. The root problems, though, lie outside of our walled art city. As Morris Berman writes in "The Twilight of American Culture," the 20th century was "the American century," but the 21st century will be "the Americanized century."

4) Lastly, the whole pissing contest between Tyler Green and the anonymous commenters is really boring. Tyler, your blog is the most read ArtBlog out there. As such, it would be difficult for you to host comments - it would be overwhelming - and because you have posted your email address, I don't see any reason for visitors to complain. That said, I don't think comments always are "puff" opportunities for those who speak up. It depends on the context and what is said. Edward runs a blog with a good bunch of people who comment regularly and thoughtfully. The "conversations" that take place in the Comments section are often as, if not more, interesting than Edward's initial post. This should be championed, not dismissed. And I agree with both Edward and Tyler, the anonymous approach does protect the commenter...but from everything. Take the swing, but remove the mask. If you land a good punch, anonymous, we'll only remember your face that much more. If, discouragingly, the Art World is like any other commercial, celebrity/youth-driven venture these days, then any press is....

12/20/2005 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

HH's comment is smart.

On No. 2: Agreed. Nothing writerly takes more cajones than changing your mind in public.

12/20/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous jj said...

By radical... I mean radical thought as well as radical delivery of work. Radical implies something differentiated, and not just on a superficial spectacle level.

If you have a lot of coddled MFA's who intend to have gallery representation right out of school the system will produce more of the same with slight variations on prevailing themes.

Tyler is a leader in a new form of media, he hasn't so much changed as recognized that what he does can make a difference. If anything he has become bolder with his success and that is good. Maybe this thread should be renamed "the inquisition"?

Critics are easy to point at but their power to change things is limited when it comes to the galleries (institutions are more effected by strong critique). Hence the reason I curate as well.

12/20/2005 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hold on. Just a few weeks ago you agreed that the reason was "to get laid." Now, which is it?

The ultimate reason is to get laid...but I'm kind of shy, so I had to get liquored up before I was bold enough to approach's a series of steps, you see. Now I'm not worried about that any more (Bambino sees my druken ass home safely), but... ;-)

12/20/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

jj, ok I thought that's what you meant. I think the problem is that historically there never has been that much 'radical' art out there. Your point on the coddled MFA's might be well taken. I'm not one of those but if the attention and financial support allows them to do their artwork, then I think it's ok. It just creates a different set of hurdles to overcome. These may actually end up being more difficult than having to start off with the initial struggle to survive and do ones work. I think it might work a bit like typecasting in the movies.

12/20/2005 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I agree that HH's comment is very smart. (although I can't believe he wrote "The "conversations" that take place in the Comments section are often as, if not more, interesting than Edward's initial post.")


In particular, I agree that Jerry's doing far, far more good than harm in his role as V V critic. He's injecting more energy into the dialog on a weekly basis than any other NY-based writer, and he remains committed to seeing as much art as seemingly humanly possible, which gives him a fair bit of right-of-way, in my opinion.

12/20/2005 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Afar said...

I agree that Jerry's continual calls for a new radical paradigm shift in art that will cure everything that is wrong with the art world is unrealistic. Why must he anually cry out for some vague revolution of some sort? The art world is too large and unwieldy, too much a mirror of the world in general - a spiralling vortex of unregulated capitalism that crushes most citizens underfoot - to change with some singularly inspired wave of the arm (or critical pen.. or brush).

Thinking about formats of art criticism - I do enjoy reading conversational, round table-style discussions about art. A lot of honest opinion slips out that way. There is a record review column in Arthur magazine that's comprised of a few people talking to each other while listening to the music they are critiquing; It's informal but informative. I'd like to see a similar, well-informed column/conversation that tackles gallery shows. Anonymous or otherwise. Actually, if venues like gawkerforum were actually comprised of posts about art as opposed to the incoherent and off-topic ravings of a handful of people obsessed with cars and AP news wires then maybe such a format would already exist.

I would also agree with Edward's assertion that negative reviews are difficult to put out there when so little space is alotted for critic's reviews. If a publication has eight reviews and 400 shows to see, why be negative about one show when there are plenty of decent shows to write about? Things are definitely at a point where just getting any review at all functions as a good review. Realistically though, reviews don't do as much for artists as the private influence of dealers and other art worlders with the ear of moneyed collectors. Reviews increase the crowds but often do not help sales.

Saltz does mention the one style of review I have always hated: the descriptive review. Infuriating!! Why bother?!

12/20/2005 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

from Tyler's post -

"Much art writing reads like the author is mostly hoping to be invited to contribute to the Whitney Biennial catalogue, so it's best if s/he not write too aggressively. Wouldn't want to offend a curator, an artist, a dealer who could blackball the writer."

That's a funny one. You guys say you want something, but the truth is that if they don't tow your line they are blacklisted. Of course artists have to comment anonymously.

I'm speaking as a sometimes critical fan of both of you.

12/20/2005 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...


(although I can't believe he wrote "The "conversations" that take place in the Comments section are often as, if not more, interesting than Edward's initial post.")

But I meant it affectionately! Oh, jeez, I'm ruined...stupid, stupid, stupid. ;)

12/20/2005 02:59:00 PM  
Anonymous w.w. said...

Now I feel bad for James Sienna. Getting zero comments on Ed's blog is almost worse than a pseudo-bad review in the Times! : )

12/20/2005 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Of course artists have to comment anonymously.

Well, not to make anyone paranoid, but in many cases I'm able to sort out who artists are even when they do post anonymously (if I know them or their work, that is), so it's only annoying to me because I can't say so openly (between hit counting technology, and what I'll term the Ortonesque nature of revealing more than you ever realize you do when writing, it's not that difficult most times).

But I meant it affectionately!

I know, HH.

Now I feel bad for James Sienna

Go see how many of those pieces are still available at his exhibition and decide if we need to feel bad for James...he's doing alright.

12/20/2005 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

"...but the truth is that if they don't tow your line they are blacklisted. Of course artists have to comment anonymously." Do you think that is really true?

12/20/2005 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Evan said...

"I think Evan was harsh on Saltz"

Of course I was harsh on Saltz. It was intended to be harsh, it was afterall a "critical review". True criticism is in fact harsh and possibly even mean spirited. But it affects change as a result. However, I'm not sure that what we want that. Especially considering we no longer have a particular (see linear) context within which to judge things. We live in a period of fads and cylces. Easy come easy go. Ultimately we are happy to play around with kid gloves. Of course we all have our various disscontents. Sure on blogs everyody's a tough ass but ultimately (to paraphrase anonymous), no one wants to insult anyone that might further their careers. And I'm not sure anything is wrong with that. There's nothing new with that. You thing Raphael wasn't kissing some Medici ass? Why not let economics be the arbitrer of taste. Way more than half this shit gonna be dust anyways. So economics are now the arbitter of good taste rather than winbag critic.

12/20/2005 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

1.) I'm loathe to respond to anonymous snipers, but.... by the standards of an anonymous commenter no criticism or discussion of one's peers would be in bounds.

2.) It would be helpful if the anonymice would be a little more specific: Take my recent Nick Nixon review, for example. What there was sophomoric or dull?

3.) Comment boards on blogs are not about keeping the blogger honest, they are about puffing up the commenter.

Tyler, who you calling anonymous?

I admit, the criticism was a little rude, but it's simply one anonymous (err, wait, I mean not anonymous) blogger's honest opinion. I don't have any specific critiques of your writing style (nor have any desire to change it), but I have to admit that I only read your blog for the expose-style insider info and generally skip the reviews. I don't really like Schjeldahl either so maybe that is of some consolation to you (I find him akin to John Updike's writings about art -- a good writer who knows more about writing than about art).

Also, you don't have to take me seriously if you don't want to, because I'm a chicken-shit anonymous blogger. I don't make a living writing about art and have no desire to do so. However, I do think that when an art critic who wants to be taken seriously (such as yourself) broadsides the majority of his colleagues and complains about the critique system (without including yourself as part of the problem) it seems that you're attacking your contemporaries in order to propose yourself as a replacement (admittedly, Saltz is more guilty than you, although I do enjoy his critical writing when he's on). It reeks of posturing and doesn't add anything to critical art writing. It also adds to the stereotype that bloggers are just amateurs who wish they were part of the establishment (i.e., a person attacking ArtForum because they're jealous that they don't work for them).

On the other hand, attacking ArtForum makes for an entertaining read, so keep at it. They need to be knocked down a notch anyway. I just think that edward_ combines his criticisms of criticism with a bit more humility.

By the way, how is a comment board about puffing up the commenter if he's anonymous (err... not anonymous)? I think there would be some fairly interesting discussions on your blog if you could get AJ to allow it (and would probably result in increased readership).

12/20/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think you're onto something there Evan. I think back to some of my favorite critics and there's no doubt that they pulled no punches...and were in many cases intentionally mean spirited. They were also fabulously entertaining to read.

What I think we're witnessing now though is a combination of the decline in power critics once held and a switch in the measure of social status measure from who fears you to whose parties you're invited to.

If the market turns down, though, and galleries go out of business, and collectors are reduced to the true art lovers (i.e., the speculators turn to some other market), and suddenly there are more critics than shows to review, we'll see a rise in the power of the critic again. Right now, everyone's too busy grabbing the money seemingly floating through the air.

12/20/2005 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger mountain man said...

I miss Peter Schjeldahl's writing in the voice. I definitely think Jerry S. has a role and brings up important points, and it's good to spur the whole system on to challenge itself and raise the quality of the debate...but there was something so rapturous and in love with art in Peter's Voice reviews, I would look forward to them every week. I still read Jerry with great interest, but his love of art doesn't inspire and translate into great writing the way Peter's did. We need another voice in it all - the NY Times needs to liven up their staff of art writers and devote more space to them instead of less.

12/20/2005 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

why be negative about one show when there are plenty of decent shows to write about?

This is the primary reason I shy away from overly negative posts on my site. I only make 10-12 posts a month and I have severely limited free time to see shows, so I am pretty picky about what I see and what I write about. Still, Saltz made me reconsider making more line-in-the-sand reviews and making pronouncements about what is good/bad. (I do have very strong opinions about what's quality.) Partially, though, I think I am also fearful of putting my opinion out there for metacriticism, as it were, since my thinking is probably more conservative than that of most of my readers.

But, having said that, I don't see myself as a critic in the way that Tyler or Jerry are. My goal for Gallery Hopper is to point to great work and encourage people to go out and see it up close. My skills just aren't there to do a heck of a lot above description and drawing historical, thematic, or stylistic parallels. Is that enough? It'll have to be for now.

12/20/2005 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

George - In Tyler's case, certainly. Notwithstanding his very conscious decision not to add anaba to his blogroll, he has removed other blogs from it after they've somehow crossed him - Thinking About Art, for one. I think every artblogger is well aware that the more obsequious you are to Tyler, the more links you will get. That's why the quote I pulled above is so funny.

George, didn't you used to link to my blog (on your website) as well? What happened? Something I said? Whatever... but YES, I do think that artists today in NYC have to be NICE, all the time and more than anything else, to get shown, reviewed, linked to on blogs, etc. I even have an e-mail from Walter Robinson telling me "I'll remember that" in response to something I wrote once! It must be so exhausting up there, even anonymously you hold back or backspin on previous comments. "Evan", you need to bone up on your art history. You are living in an ass-kissing time like no other. Your first comment was good though.

12/20/2005 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous evan said...

Edward said,

What I think we're witnessing now though is a combination of the decline in power critics once held and a switch in the measure of social status measure from who fears you to whose parties you're invited to. Right now,They probably read a smuch art crit as anybody. everyone's too busy grabbing the money seemingly floating through the air.

It's a huge mistake to project the notion that collectors are running around buying garbage just because it's for sale. Collectors read as much art criticism as anybody else. The smart ones at least. It's like the "racing form". Critics attempt to gauge meaning and cultural value. Collectors use these reviews as an attempt to gauge monetary value based on a critics assesement of the works cultural value. Case in point: Saltz reviews Shutz and the show sells out. Critics still have plenty of power. They just aren't the monoliths they used to be. Again, thank god. I dread the day when they are propped back up like golden calfs.

In the long run, the majority of artists who do well are good artists. Overpriced, for sure. Have you ever looked at the Mona Lisa's estimated price tag? It's good but it ain't that good. I just read that the estimated value of our beloved Central Park is $567,408,693,075.00. Everything is reducable to it's monetary value. Personally I'm glad that art reflects our times. Isn't that it's job? I'm am so sick and tired of these talibanistic purits who constantly want to roll back time to some dopey nostalgic vision of when things were better. That's not art that's bullshit.

12/20/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's a huge mistake to project the notion that collectors are running around buying garbage just because it's for sale. Collectors read as much art criticism as anybody else. The smart ones at least.

You see the inherent contradiction in this, no? How much of the art that's selling can be as good as the widely considered non-hard-hitting criticism implies it is?

12/20/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Evan said...

In my last post I forgot italics. First paragraph is Edward. The rest is mine. Sorry bout that.

ps: During the renaissance artists were tripping over themselves to get jobs with the Medici. Re-read Vasari's "Lives of the Artists". It's one big fluff piece that would put "W magazine" to shame. Real estate was way up. People were bulding like crazy. What do you think all those frescoes were for? And artists still managed to make good work. Big suprise.

12/20/2005 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous human said...

Apparently NOBODY bought work from a Petah Coyne show after a very bad review.
Obviously it didn't end her career, but it slowed it down at the time and had financial consequences.

12/20/2005 05:11:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...


Let's be clear on one thing. I have nothing against Tyler, but according to one web traffic site MAN gets less than 1,000 hits per day. The few times he linked to my site resulted in only 10-20 new hits for me. So don't sweat it too much. I know you don't. Of course, his site is still the top artblog in terms of audience, so there's something to be said for that.


If we assume someone must have a critical voice, who is it going to be? The gallerists? Collectors? Curators? Critics? Artists? Who?

12/20/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

hey folks, please don't use this blog to criticize other people who comment leads to threads where the issue gets lost among the personal disputes. As noted above, you're free to email Tyler whenever you feel the need. If Jerry ever comments here, then he'll be off limits too.

If we assume someone must have a critical voice, who is it going to be?

The critics...that's their job.

12/20/2005 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...

Sorry Edward. I just didn't want Martin and others to get carried away with being afraid of what critics might say about them. I didn't mean to attack Tyler (and I don't feel I did). Just wanted to point out relative importance. My apologies for abusing your blog.

I agree it needs to be the critic. I'm ready to stop reading so many descriptive rehashes of press releases.

12/20/2005 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ed: I think you're being a little oversensitive on Tyler's behalf. Criticism should always be encouraged (especially if it's clearly within the context of the original post). On the other hand, personal attacks should not be acceptable. I don't think any comments of that sort have occured here.

12/20/2005 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Evan writes;

During the renaissance artists were tripping over themselves to get jobs with the Medici. Re-read Vasari's "Lives of the Artists". It's one big fluff piece that would put "W magazine" to shame. Real estate was way up. People were bulding like crazy. What do you think all those frescoes were for? And artists still managed to make good work. Big suprise.

Your Renaissance parallel is appropriate, though artists then were far more restricted, beholden to the church and the collector/donor, often one and the same. Simply because parallels can be drawn between the monied interests in our corporate wonderland and those of the feared Medici Syndicate, should we be sanguine? Enlightment leanings aside, the Renaissance was a pretty brutal place for original or progressive thought and for every cherished exception (Dante, Leonardo) you have those who were downtrodden (Machiavelli). (Hell, even Leonardo had to supplement his income by designing "war machines" for the State, a gig he was less than thrilled to accept.)

Furthermore, at the risk of sounding like an elitist - which, in some respects, is not a bad thing - I don't think we should be so eager to embrace the flavor of the day. No matter how attractive a pop song may be - and I certainly have enough of them on my play lists to be implicated myself - there is a serious failing in the acceptance of this mass-produced froth. Too much pleasant diversion or innocent escapism and a person's capacity for resistance or individual social commitment can erode. You might label such sentiment puritanical, but I assure you I am not guided in this conviction by nostalgic notions or a desire for "preservation," a corrosive ideal if there ever was one.

When I walk down the street, plugged into my iPod, in my iWorld, I do my best to attack the impulse as much as I embrace it. At the end of the day, though, it takes much less effort to "defeat" the pop bug. If you listen to a superior, contemporary recording - and there are plenty of them around - you know it immediately; the rest of the drivel fades from your mind. I think this is what good criticism should be; the critic has listened to much of what is available, has an ear/eye, and is willing to be particular, even if it sometimes means panning what they write about.

12/20/2005 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks JT,

We all know Tyler can take care of concern is the thread-jacking effect of focusing on folks participating in the tends to change the subject...and, well, that's why 1) blogger is free to all and 2) I try to have at least one open thread a week, so folks can discuss whatever they want.

As for the evidence that critics have long memories, I think artists and other folks alike should keep two things in mind. First, it's business, not personal. No matter how personally you take a bad review (and I understand why artist's do), they're rarely an attempt to hurt the artist personally. Secondly, most folks who respond to a critic do so in a personal manner, attacking their looks or writing skills or previous professions, instead of explaining, calmly, why their critique was simply wrong.

If you're looking for a way to make an enemy, respond with anger and personal attacks. If you're looking for a way to impress a critic into giving your work another look, respond with a thoughtful counter-critique. Challenge them to reconsider their judgement. But always's business, not personal.

ed: I think you're being a little oversensitive on Tyler's behalf.

No more than I would be on the behalf of any other "guest" here...I'm protective like that of those kind enough to visit me.

12/20/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

edward said:
If Jerry ever comments here, then he'll be off limits too.

Wait, all someone has to do to be above criticism is to comment here?

12/20/2005 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

all someone has to do to be guaranteed they'll be treated respectfully here is comment here, works for everyone.

12/20/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Kriston said...

Off topic:

John Updike's writings about art—a good writer who knows more about writing than about art

Well . . . that's a fair assessment, though in his defense, he's never claimed to be an art critic, and only ever heavily caveats his writing about art. (I'm an Updike fan/apologist—he's a really, really good writer, far more artful than any bonafide critic working today.)

most folks who respond to a critic do so in a personal manner, attacking their looks or writing skills or previous professions, instead of explaining, calmly, why their critique was simply wrong.

This is certainly right. And when you have a community of artists that's tight, criticism of one artist or show or gallery is sometimes construed as blanket criticism of all the artists and gallerists that identify with that community. (I know I've been snubbed by artists whom I haven't written about in response to a negative review about a group show or two.)

Adding the blog dynamic into the mix seems to encourage an antagonistic dynamic.

12/21/2005 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

For not the first time, I'll point out that JT's facts are incorrect (at least they're long, long, long out of date) and I'll leave it at that.

12/21/2005 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

I'm a little late on this one but I thought I'd give my two cents. Blackballing does happen trust me I know. My space was uninvited to artLA because of something I posted on my blog after we did it last year. I was told by someone who shall remain anonymous that they thought "I wasn't interested" but nobody talked to me or asked me about it, she/he read my blog and I got payback. The kicker was that the post in question was just an honest "report card" of my experience, it wasn't that bad.

Anybody notice the lack of posts detailing the "real" experiences of the Miami fairs. Those bloggers are smarter then me.

So in other words. Stay anonymous (even in the blogosphere) folks or suffer the consequences. I learned the hard way.

12/21/2005 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apropos of Chris' post:

After reading all the "entire booths selling out" hype from Miami, I have since read on several dealers' blogs phrases like, " our shipment of work returned from Miami today," casually in passing. How can this be if you sold out your booth?

12/21/2005 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Because collectors don't often want to take the work with them, but have it shipped to them after they return home, Anonymous.

12/21/2005 12:54:00 PM  

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