Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Champagne's Made from Sour Grapes

Two readers on yesterday's thread asked me to respond to Richard Polsky's predictions and observations about the downturn in the art market on artnet. I've always liked Mr. Polsky's candor and direct writing (I loved I Bought Andy Warhol) and there is plenty in his piece to agree with (people become nicer in tough times, people return to the basics in hard times, proven names will do better than newer names in tough times, this downturn will seriously impact print products [both magazines and gallery produced pieces like catalogs and mailers], and perseverance is the order of the day for everyone).

Where I take issue with Mr. Polsky---and there's no need to single him out on this account, I'll add that Mr. Hickey is even more guilty of this---is in the hypocrisy of the righteous indignation that serves as their posturing point...a self-declared right to distance themselves from the excesses they're criticizing because someone at one time disrespected them or made them feel envious, all the while each of them (especially Mr. Hickey) is as responsible as anyone for perpetuating, indeed for effectively selling (even through all the sarcasm) the glamor and attractiveness, indeed the very genesis, of all that excess. Consider this passage from Mr. Hickey's piece in November's Vanity Fair magazine:
I get a really “good colored” card, but even so, I know that there are better cards. I know that there are people around me who have the best card, the Willy Wonka card that will pass them through enclosures of escalating exclusivity and ultimately bring them into the presence of … oh, I don’t know … maybe Sir Nicholas Serota, the very icon of Labor gentry, in a tan, glen plaid suit, comfortably disposed in a Gehry Power-Play Club Chair with a matching ottoman to support his Crockett & Jones wing tips. Sir Nicholas will turn, smile, and lift a snifter of brandy to welcome the chosen, and someone’s life will be complete.
Indeed, both Hickey and Polsky doth protest a bit too much, in my opinion:
Polksy: "I don’t miss being mocked for not flying first-class, staying at the best hotels, or dining at appropriate restaurants"

Hickey: "My exclusion from such intimate occasions—some imaginary, many all too real—makes me feel diminished, and it’s supposed to. Ideally, everyone at an art fair ends up feeling diminished."
Really? Does "everyone" end up feeling diminished...don't some people come there for the art and get a very happy dose of it? Doesn't someone get to walk away feeling good, having had an experience that surpassed all their expectations, looking forward to returning next year and feeling even better? Does walking in the door automatically make one jaded? Does everyone attending obsess over footwear, VIP card colors, and the deference paid to them by the hundreds of exhausted dealers doing their best to pay deference to thousands of attendees? Artists and dealers work very hard to present booths of significance and importance at these events...all this chatter about pecking orders is the excess in my opinion.

Moreover, it's the insinuation that something due to them is denied because of all the (as Polsky puts it) "Long Island housewives masquerading as art dealers" that forms the vantage point of their critiques and, well, that assertion taints the rest of what they're saying. In other words, it reads as sour grapes and is perhaps as responsible for all the focus on what's excessive about art fairs and hot markets as anything else.

Let's consider one of Polsky's central complaints: "I also don’t miss ...having to genuflect to dealers who had instituted a waiting list for their most desirable artists."

Here's a dose of tough love for Mr. Polsky (who I'm sure knows this already) or any other collectors. If your spending at a gallery puts you at the "425th collector" place in terms of the total support for the artists in that program, there are 423 other collectors who also feel slighted or insulted or forced to genuflect when new work by their most desirable artists becomes available. How do you suggest dealers manage all those bruised egos? It's a serious question. If there is some way short of adding 48 hours to every day or bottling endless energy and patience to communicate gently to very powerful people that someone else who spends more to support the program has earned the right to get first pick, I can guarantee you that dealers would be happy to adopt it. It's not in their interest to upset any of their clients.

Now I'm not saying that some dealers aren't simply little shits. And I can attest as well as any that dealers have bad days like anyone else, but I'm a bit over seeing how the villain in all these melodramas is always the dealer or the fair organizer or the person with enough money to buy access beyond that of the imperiled connoisseurs who've selflessly devoted their entire lives to art. My question is why the connoisseurs are so obsessed with the access and deference. I know they tell themselves that when the Long Island housewives retreat back to the spas and yacht clubs where they belong that they'll be able to focus on the art, but what they really mean was voiced by Mr. Polsky: "Dealers who wouldn’t give you the time of day (let alone let you use their bathroom) suddenly greeted you like an old friend when you walked into their space."

So dealers are human...sue them. When the market is hot and attendance in the galleries is high, there is simply too much work to be done to greet each and every person who comes in like an old friend. When things slow down, that's much more possible.

My question is what on earth does that have to do with the art on the walls?

Labels: art market


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all for art writing that focuses solely on "the art on the walls". The post-October world of art writing dictates that everything but the art should be emphasized in art writing because if you don't do that you are a formalist aesthete, you are ignoring the socio-economic machinations behind the gallery/museum system, etc. Hickey is too busy mythologizing himself to focus on the art.


12/10/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With regards to the power of 'sour grapes'. I know artists, dealers, critics, professors, curators, gallery staff (and a slew of other types within the art world), who experience bouts of sour grapes. It is human nature. It will always be a part of the picture so to speak. Saying that it is the sole driving force behind anything is a bit of a reduction no?


12/10/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++what on earth does that have to +++do with the art on the walls?


If you're really enthousiast about the art you show, you're going to feel like partying with anyone who enters your gallery.

I agree that whining over VIP cards at an art fair is vain.
People don't seem to grasp that ultimately if you want to snob
the art world, just... err... don't attend an art fair. There is really no need for that, and let's be honest: the best art doesn't need art fairs.

And when you don't have time
or haven't succeed in making
the right friends, pay your goddam card. There is no such thing as a VIP card that isn't affordable if you want to pay for it. They're much less expensive than art. Go on. Talk to the event organizers. People love financers.


Cedric Caspesyan

12/10/2008 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

I do think "Club 54" styles of access will distract some from the art on the walls. But Art fairs are commerical events, and in conventions in other markets, there is the same sort of thing, just downplayed rather than in-your-face.

I started my (modest) collection because I loved the pieces I acquired, I am not after social validation. I have friends for that! ;)

12/10/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My point is more that this particular story ("yeah! the excesses are ending") emerges without any acknowledgment that the very people cheering the end in fact own, in part, why those excesses emerge in the first place.

Hickey's piece is as sexy a bit of reporting on the excess as any I've ever read. Seriously, I'm reading that thinking, "Well, I've never really wanted the 'better' color card before, but I do." He is selling the glamor by so glamorously deriding it. That is the essence of sour grapes simply inversed.

12/10/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger nina said...

Another great post, that not only applies to art dealers and collectors, but to the whole scene (or world) at large.

12/10/2008 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Actually, when I get to an event and I have the ultimate VIP card, I just hide it, and show it at the door from my pocket. I just get so annoyed by poseurs.

This started at one festival where I had the ultimate card and some friends were stopping me and ask "Gee Cedric, how did you get that card?". I remember saying to the organizers that I thought it was a bad idea to create hierarchies like that and it was just embarassing for everyone. They never listened to me, and it's still a mess these days.

I hate lack of common sense, but don't trust these ridiculous artworld innuendos: if you see me with the top card, you know that it's a proof that it isn't fair, and I whole heartedly agree with you.

Cedric Caspesyan

12/10/2008 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that big name art writers who pretend, through the use of very appealing rhetorical devices and writing styles, that they are completely seperate from the art world they write about, are just as much to blame for its excesses as 'little shit' dealers are. I think academics and journalists deserve an equal serving of the blame because they are all increasing the value of things that are not worthy.


12/10/2008 11:38:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...


You are right on the money here:

He is selling the glamor by so glamorously deriding it.

And I also appreciate your consistently practical perspective

(sue gallerists for being human, or for being to busy to chat when the money is flowing, etc.)

But "sour grapes" is such a fundamentally lame, unprovable, motive-assigning argument, and you are *so* undoing it when you hit Hickey where he actually lives

(he can't have sour grapes because he's soaking in it!)

and there's this bigger point to make that you're missing.

It's more interesting that Saltz, Hickey, Polsky, et al are serving a specific hegemonic function when they burn inches and inches of copy on calling rich folks greedy.

As you say, a lot of what they say is rather true. But they aren't exactly swimming in a vast ocean of thoughts. Instead, they are defining the boundaries of a specific swimming pool of thinking about what the market is and what it does and what it's for.

There are practical reasons to think beyond the pool of accepted wisdom, no?

12/10/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

You go, Ed.

12/10/2008 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

he can't have sour grapes because he's soaking in it

I'm not sure, Deb...he is the one who noted that he didn't get "the best card, the Willy Wonka card that will pass them through enclosures of escalating exclusivity"...sounds like a good grounding for charging sour grapes to me, but....

My point, as stated, is that the rest of their criticism is tainted by their active participation in glamorizing the excess. (You can't have it both ways.)

I'm not actually commenting on the excess. I ignore it, enjoy it, envy it, mock it, etc. etc. ... but I like to think I effectively separate it from the art regardless of how extensive it is, so I actually don't see the problem.

And in Polsky and Hickey's critiques what I sense more than anything that is if they got the Willy Wonka cards when the market was hot their take on the decline would be different.

12/10/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is nice to see that art people are getting sick of the pseudo-Marxism that gets trotted out over and over again by the art writers (bloggers included). It is total bullshit. Also, you would think the art writers would know better. They have all been so steeped in October-esque social critique for so long that you would think they would realize that they are never separate from anything. The whole notion of separating oneself from the excesses of art doesn't work because how can you clearly define what is excess and what is successful business practice? At least Roberta Smith had the gahones to say that "she doesn’t mind being a consumer guide for art".


12/10/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This is a hoot!

Here we are in the midst of a world wide financial collapse and a couple of art critics are bemoaning the consequences. I find the look back at Artist-x and Artist-y's price declines in the 1990's a bit of a too late BOOOOOOO! and a disingenuous one at that.

When the market is hot NO one is going to say that's "too much" for fear of ruining the party. That is the way it was. If it is any consolation, the current financial crisis is an order of magnitude worse because the Bush administration KNEW things were getting bad but did nothing for fear of loosing the election. Didn't anyone else wonder why they sent out those gift checks last year, $85 Billion to us, a bribe, before the $850 billion to them. Yup, nobody wants to spoil the party.

So the party is over.

That doesn't mean there will not be another party, there will be, maybe soon. But for now, we will get the chance to slow down a bit and think about the art. To think about what kind of art we want to make, to think about what kind of art we want to see, to think about what kind of art we want to exhibit, and to think about what kind of art we want to collect.

So yeah, what on earth does that have to do with the art on the walls?

12/10/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you don't want to waste your time yakking about frivolous things like art, if you want to focus on what is truly important and ride the wave of the future, the only place to go is:


12/10/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

As the import, quantity, quality, length, influence, and profitiability of art criticism converge to zero, one really might as well fret about one's access, casting one's acclaimed glances at Sir Nicholas's wing tips. The joke's on the critics, here. Art will survive, the market for art will survive, and conspicuous consumption will always be with us. Art criticism may already be dead, suspended Wile E. Coyote-like over the abyss by sheer lack of comprehension of its own cirucumstances.

12/10/2008 03:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I wonder if all this whining will
finally make people open their eyes and realize "Hey...What the fuck!? They have been people doing it non-profit all along?"

Wake up, there's lots other things going on in art than the market.

Art is not just about owning shit and investments. Artists: go create artists-run centres and show them.

Cedric Caspesyan

12/10/2008 04:02:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

I was being vague before. What I mean to say is that all this ostensibly critical writing about the market's excesses does more to define and capitalize The Marketand affirm its power than it does to actually criticize the excesses of the market.

In order to rail forward-thinkingly against a hegemony, you need a hegemony to rail against. And when the hegemony happens to be selling dissent, then the critic winds up in an interesting, synergistic relationship with that hegemony.

This is the Dave Hickey problem you poke at above.

Sure, it's "shocking" that he can stand before a room of gallerists and call them greedy, call them not-art-dealers. And of course Hickey is going to elaborately downplay the now-infamous 2006 Frieze Podcast as a boner move on his part as he grumpily masticates his experience of Frieze 2007 in the pages of Vanity Fair right before everyone goes to Miami.

But what else is it?

Why do the powerful people let this wheezy old fart stand up in front of people and call them greedy?

I think they do it because he's helping their cause. He's defining the market as an entity that's powerful enough to change people, creating a discourse about art

(the confetti-and-dog-turd argument)

that's directly related to that power, and at the same time he's allowing them to own his very dissent by being a bit of a pop-intellectual commodity, standing on the stage at the Frieze fair and playing court jester.

I don't think this is necessarily Hickey's fault--it's just that dissent is a terrible strategy right now. Dissent is easy to co-opt--all you have to do is value it. That's all you need to do to bring it into the hegemony that it's supposed to be against.

That makes the "outsider" status Hickey flaunts when he notices he doesn't have the best ticket a kind of kabuki anyway.

12/10/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should be more specific about what you are damning to hell Franklin. Are you talking specifically about art writing/criticism that appears in magazines and newspapers? Because we all know what is happening to newspapers and magazines right now. So it isn't really going out on a limb to kick a dying horse is it? If you are also including the art criticism/writing, whatever you want to call it, that appears online, isn't that shooting yourself in the foot? Polsky is a collector who writes about being a collector for artnet, an online magazine that gets millions of hits a month. Dave Hickey has written books that were published by big name publishers, won a genius grant, has done quite well thank you very much, and probably would be able to get along just fine if the magazines his writing has appeared in go under. Art criticism is mostly being written by bloggers right now and appears in online magazines as well. So are we damning the whole kit and kaboodle? Because I know for a fact that artcritical will continue to exist regardless of the tanking economy, and believe me, I do not take the current economic climate lightly. Obviously ART is what matters most. I would never argue about what is more important, art or writing about art.


12/10/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...


I like art critical. You should cover more than New York. Make it bigger. Find writers from other cities. The strength of artcritical is that it focuses
on show reviews.

Cedric Caspesyan

12/10/2008 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like poetry, as much as the guy next door?

Out there--tambourine--multi-flexing nexus that flow divergent passage, there will be those who take advantage.
And, for those fettered by the constant nag of gain and loss--their position within it--for no other reason than want of a different head direction, will pull up and witness—something entirely different.

In good times, as in bad.


12/10/2008 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I don't think I'm damning anything to hell, unless your idea of hell is to fall into a stylized Southwestern canyon, splat, and walk away wheezing minor chords like an accordion. I think the field is in serious trouble, and I say that as a participant in said field. Hickey bloviating for Vanity Fair does not assuage my concerns. In fact, he illustrates one of my concerns: that art criticism is folding into a highly opinionated subspecialty of journalism and not enough people can tell the difference. The fairs exacerbate that phenomenon, because their raison-d'etre is wholly commercial, and sending an art critic to review one of them is like sending a food critic to review a Safeway, but I digress.

I think we're at a point in history that the art world would operate in exactly the way it does even if all the art critics suddenly disappeared. The practical purposes currently served by critics could be discharged as well by journalists and specialized copywriters. This is all but proven by Hickey fretting in print about the color of his admission badge, and worse, finding meaning in it. The ridiculousness of his situation, and by extension that of all the critics, is staggering.

It may be worth doing anyway, of course. It's an honorable genre. I happen to enjoy it. But I'm not confused about the fact that I'm writing for pleasure, even though I do earn a bit from it. When it comes to writing for pleasure, the Internet is the greatest vehicle of all time. I respect the hell out of Artcritical, and in fact at one point I was talking to David about writing for it. (I didn't get it together because of that whole thing I did in California. My fault entirely, and I wouldn't mind a re-introduction.) But I am eagerly awaiting writing acumen, understanding of the medium, and a business model to coalesce into one effort. (EG, dude, I've seen your source code.)

Somebody at Artsjournal (I wish I remembered who; he made a brave and observant assertion) said that the newspapers are going to die suddenly, all at once, after teetering on the brink for so long, sometime in the next five years. This will make the websites profitable practically overnight. This was before the current financial meltdown, which will likely shorten that window. Should that come to pass, I have no doubt about AC's future.

12/10/2008 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Hickey isn't turning off the tractor beam? I specifically told him the only way I'm selling him my wookie child is if he deactivates the death star. It's a Jungian thing.

THe pseudo marxism is high or low burlesque, not sure which. But it is highly annoing if you are not rich. Younge audiences, for example, tend to take the coin of the realm at face value _ i know I;ve been known to rail against "the system" (watever that is)

I think the bigger (biggest) issue is how to allow penniless idealists to retire gracefully without slitting their wrists or diving from bridges or drinking antifreeze in the summer when it simply wont do any good.

oh but you, you are totally relevant. Where did you say you parked my new car?

Other than that, my current evaluation of the good in art is anything you care to look at or think about for more than a minute - fuck the rest of the noise (that effete Bourriard can kiss my commie ass).

12/11/2008 04:46:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

It's already the future, we are in the information age. The business model for newspapers is now digital and the Christian Science Monitor is the first. Magazines are entirely something else and the crossover will depend of how timely their content needs to be delivered.

I am of a mind that art writers are essential, they coalesce the hidden dialogue and make it public, we need that. Poetry, reportage, criticism and theory, all are necessary to keep the dialogue passionate. The dialogue starts in the studios, and on the streets but it is the writer who expands the dialogue, exposing the newest work, by bringing it to our attention. It is a task for the poets.

The problems of criticism and theory are rooted in the modernist and postmodernist approaches to analysis which have either become excessively rigid or obtusely obscure. The audience wants to know what "it's about" they want some handle on the art work so they can be part of the dialog. Art is for everybody, it is not just for the few who know the secret handshake and the code words. Is there really a "Willy Wonka" card?

12/11/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if I took it for granted that y'all knew that EG was Eric Gelber. Not a big secret. Zip whatever you say. Your Trans-Am is parked in the pile of dog crap at the end of the street. And yes, the symbolism in SF novels is heavy handed. I am done with updating my own blogs for now but that leaves more room for artcritical, which is where it all began for me. I personally am not happy about there being less journalism and less journalists in the world. Muckraking plays an important role in society and hopefully criticism and good reporting will survive the transplant. Hickey is a better writer than I am, but the world doesn't need pseudo-Marxist cultural critics right now. There is so much art to write about, so much creativity that is going by the wayside because no one is paying attention to it. I am not sure why Edward never included artcritical on his blogroll but I assume he has some beef with it. Yeats was aware of the fact that making art is a grueling task. He compared what he did to what his mother did all her life. He said that he was a washerwoman with words. I too wish there were more poets of Yeats' calibre in the world right now. Franklin you should contact David at, that is unless you consider him the competition. My reviews should be appearing again on artcritical in January. And no zip, I don't think I am the only one who is relevant. I have and continue to agonize over the relevancy of art writing. And again, art making is everything, and art writing should at the very least enhance the experience of art.


Peace and love art blogland

12/11/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++++modernist and postmodernist +++approaches to analysis which ++++have either become excessively ++++rigid or obtusely obscure.

That's why you want less poets in art writing, George, and more of people who simply make sense.

+++++the art world would operate ++++in exactly the way it does +++even if all the art critics +++suddenly disappeared.

Hmm.... Artists are the first critics. I can't believe some
aren't a little bored by the commecial aspect of the artworld,
They have been strong legacies in the past of artists
who were doing art that wasn't selling at all, or didn't
give a shit about selling, and more of that will come.

Art doesn't have to be your day job, remember that.

I knew who he was:
++++more poets of Yeats' calibre

Zip is would make a great poet.

Cedric Caspesyan

12/11/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

That's why you want less poets in art writing, George, and more of people who simply make sense.

You read the wrong poets.

12/11/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You should cover more than New York."

David has looked around for writers who want to cover the art scenes outside of the NY area but to no avail.

Frank O'Hara and John Ashberry and John Yau, poets one and all, have done some excellent art writing.

12/11/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I am not sure why Edward never included artcritical on his blogroll

just a really inexcusable sorry. it's been corrected. For the record, I love Art Critical!

12/11/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Wrether WB Yeats makes sense after you understand what Paudeen or Duke Ercole or Mummers in the Market Place mean, I still think that it's detrimental to criticism to focus a text on embellishments to such a degree that it becomes over-caked, a thoroughly gift-wrapped package where meaning is caught through the hindrance of various inner mini-boxes.

There is just an instance where sometimes I read an art critic and I'm really wowed by the intricate use of langage and use of strange words or bizarre references, but I get lost about what they actually mean to say about an artist.

Are people like Jeffrey Saltz or John Perreault poets ? No, but they are very concise and make total sense when they talk about art. That's more of what I'm looking for. Less is what, say, a guess writer would wander about in a catalog for a show at Gagosian.


Cedric Caspesyan

12/11/2008 03:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric the whole layout of artcritical is being redone as I type. The relatively new DISPATCHES section which is located towards the bottom of the right of the homepage includes reviews of shows in North Carolina, Paris, and soon Philly. The user interface will be much improved soon. I don't think David reads blogs but I will pass on the compliments.


12/11/2008 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Poets can write about art, I'm just saying that poetry and art criticism are two things.

Actually there's been symposiums about this topic "Poetry and Art Criticism", where, for example, they would analyse a Paul Eluard text and determinate what is criticism from what is pure hyperbolism in his writtings about art.

You have to remember that half of the 20th century history of poetry was that it wasn't supposed to make sense. That's why Edward has to go back to a poem in 1912 so that poetry can again make sense of the artworld. Lol.

Cedric Caspesyan

12/11/2008 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this writing below? Who is this zip, zippy, zipppity zipthwung? What sort of mad writing is this -so chaotic yet so fluent? Are you flesh and blood and not, as i imagine, a fictional incensed word-spitter jumping out some pages of a novel called HUNGER HUNGER yet unwritten by me?! Are you one of the characters in my upcoming novel? In my head? Did I imagine you?

No, I didn't.
I couldn't!


zipthwung said...
Hickey isn't turning off the tractor beam? I specifically told him the only way I'm selling him my wookie child is if he deactivates the death star. It's a Jungian thing.

THe pseudo marxism is high or low burlesque, not sure which. But it is highly annoing if you are not rich. Younge audiences, for example, tend to take the coin of the realm at face value _ i know I;ve been known to rail against "the system" (watever that is)

I think the bigger (biggest) issue is how to allow penniless idealists to retire gracefully without slitting their wrists or diving from bridges or drinking antifreeze in the summer when it simply wont do any good.

oh but you, you are totally relevant. Where did you say you parked my new car?

Other than that, my current evaluation of the good in art is anything you care to look at or think about for more than a minute - fuck the rest of the noise (that effete Bourriard can kiss my commie ass).

12/11/2008 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most exciting 'investions' of art is to make it 'lightweight'--to take the burden off of art: the holder/minder of beauty but also a great weight. And life, like art, at any pinnacle stage of development, addresses this 'lightness'of weight upon our souls afresh.

Question. When a poet experiences a work or art that appears to hold no poetry in it at all, but possesses all the signs and signals of what has come to be expected of poetry/art, should the poet:

a. Leave the building at once
b. Spend more time with the work
c. Breath the poetic into the cold and calculating
d. Or just give up poetry and get down with the critical
e. Or suggest to the artist some possible strategies, onomatopoeia - for example


12/11/2008 08:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to be nothing more than a man wearing a sandwich board at the end of this thread. Art criticism, in its present form, is often a continuation of the writing found in press releases. It has plenty of warts believe me. I really hope that art writing will be able to maintain a high level of criticality and in-depth analysis. My own personal view is that art critics should spend a lot of time with the art they will be writing about.

Art critics have to be careful to avoid a number of things:

allowing their judgment to be swayed by personal feelings (in other words, writing a positive review of a friend's exhibition), allowing their judgment to be swayed by their own needs, petty impulses and career goals, borrowing their ideas from books that have been in circulation for years and were written by academics who have a lot more time on their hands to think through their ideas, relying too much on clichés or other viewpoints and opinions that have been circulating around the art world for way too long, not paying enough attention to the art and instead trying to make themselves look really cool for the grad students they work with (these attempts at coolness usually manifest themselves in the form of political opinions that are embarrassingly naive). They also have to be good writers. Dry art writing can be torturous to read.

Goodnight everybody.

12/11/2008 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

++++should the poet:

The poet can do the heck he wants, C.P.. The first argument for poetry is that it should be free.

I think there is such a thing as poetry about art. I just want to differentiate that from art criticism. Or maybe there is such a thing as middle road between poetry and art criticism, and
it can be beautiful to read, but not necessarely my favorite type of criticism.

Same goes for curators who see their job as some form of art practice, and suppress artists intentions by conveying all sorts
of ideas and juxtapositions that in the end loose the comprehension of what the artists are trying to do.

There is a place for everything, I would never totally condemn one thing in favor of the other. I love poets, but I also love people who make sense, and in the artworld precisely, sometimes I feel like making sense is discouraged or debased. People seem to favoritize writers who take long turns to say one thing. Bloggers are ridiculed because they don't have that level of artistry with language.

I don't have a problem with dry writting (obviously) if the person says something that really interest me. I'm really about what people say more than how they say it, if that's considered some sort of stand in art criticism. We are living in a global age where
most people accept english as a form of international language without mastering it, and I think that's the beauty of it, that we all use this imperfect screen between us that shivers and crackles with gaps. We also have huge amounts of data to consume, so people want things that can make sense quicker. I'm just going with the flow.


Cedric Caspesyan (I'm Mid 30's Delenta Est, so maybe it's a generation thing)

12/12/2008 03:10:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I said Poetry, reportage, criticism and theory, all are necessary to keep the dialogue passionate.

Cedric you're conflating them together, each functions in their own way and the differences in what is written will be context dependent. Most art writing is reportage and primarily concerned with description. Criticism goes a step farther by evaluating the work regardless of whatever might have been the artists intentions. Theory provides an intellectual context for all this. The poet may provide the emotional entry, the point of recognition which initiates the dialogue of the other forms.

In my opinion all are necessary. We choose what we read, what we pay attention to and what we decide to ignore. At certain points in our lives we are not capable of comprehending certain points of view, that doesn't make them invalid.

The problems in criticism may stem from the failure of the modernist critics to extend their analysis and focus towards the formal qualities of representational art. This wasn't a problem of formalism per se, but a failure of the critical writers to extend their thought beyond the limitations of late twentieth century abstraction. It was a failure to approach content the same rigor as form. People are interested in what 'it is all about.' How that is achieved by the artist is a valid topic for formal analysis.

The postmodernists, post-structuralists, postholes, potholes, whatever, didn't do any better on their end, and sank critical theory into a mire of polysyllabic words which obfuscate the situation (get the point?) In this case, what "it is all about," has been debased into a coded secret text for the illuminati. It is an exclusive, elitist approach, which uses language to insulate the writers from their inability to express the truth.


12/12/2008 09:19:00 AM  
Anonymous in defense of polsky said...

Richard mentions his pet peeves (the long island housewives, the snubs and sneers) in the simplest, most abbreviated way, and then goes on to talk in a little more depth about things that matter a little bit more.

Hickey, on the other hand, produces an extended cranky whine that deals with banalities and nothing more. This is what comes from a MacArthur "Genius"?

12/15/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I would agree, "in defense"...that's why I noted that Hickey is even more guilty.

Both of them, however, lose credibility in their critique by suggesting their POV stems in any part from being snubbed.

12/15/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sure Mr. Hickey will be very upset about all the criticism he is receiving in this post and comment thread.

12/15/2008 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I am sure Mr. Hickey will be very upset about all the criticism he is receiving in this post and comment thread.

No where near as upset as I've been by some of the gratuitous comments he's been making lately, I assure you. Such as

As exciting as this moment is now, imagine how exciting the collapse is going to be.

It’s really something to look forward to.

Boom! Thousands of Icari plummeting into the surf.

Eventually all the windows where you sell your soul are going to be closed.

The notion that a crash is good for critics or art, and damn the commercial side all to hell, is an infantile response to the complex interdependency of the system, in my opinion. He wants something new, anything new, but won't offer what that should be or why it's better.

In short, it truly pisses me off.

If Mr. Hickey is upset, I invite him to give me a call; we can discuss why I'm upset as well.

12/15/2008 12:29:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home