Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Reason to Love CVF #2478 (or the Return of Art Criticism as Blood Sport)

His short-termed foray into other, non-criticism ventures must have worked liked a dam, holding back a furious ocean of feedback, because now that's he's writing again at the Village Voice, Christian Viveros-Fauné is unleashing and how! His take-down of the "Greater New York 2010" exhibition is so brilliantly devastating that it's made me want to go see the show. (I didn't have anything against it before, just haven't had an opportunity to get out there...but I'll make the time now.)

And, yes, I'm partial to this review because in it he says something nice about our current show, but even if he hadn't, this would have gone down as one of my all time favorite art world reads because of gems like these in the piece:
  • "Rather than a proper survey of emerging art in the five boroughs, this exhibition pips cool, energetic, largely clueless young artists for a rundown that proves a swampy, unproductive, talent-sucking bog."
  • "Squarer in its American Apparel nonconformity than a tramp stamp, this show is the spiritual heir to car commercials scored by Dirty Vegas and backward trucker hats"
  • "It should be said that "Greater New York 2010" is nothing if not strenuously politically correct. Some 43 percent of its artists are women (when the ratio of women to men in an exhibition actually changes its quality, someone please let me know), it is overwhelmingly filled with video and installation (as if those mediums don't sell!), appears as the least "white" of such displays on record (if the works devoted to "blackness" are any guide), and proudly promotes itself, in the words of one wag, as "the gayest show ever." No matter—black Jesus floating down from on high with a strap-on would not improve this disaster of an assembly one iota."
  • And perhaps the best harsh line I've read in ages : "Works like these only really make sense inside an MFA program. Before the crit."
As cruel as it might seem to focus on this, I actually believe that criticism with this much fire and wit is a service to its readers and its subjects. As they say, the opposite of love isn't's indifference. Again, this has made me really want to go see this exhibition, if only to satisfy my hunch that it can't really be that bad.

Either way, I've been publicly bellyaching about all the softballs being lobbed by New York critics through the boom years and into the recession (yes, I know, if this fiery passion is turned toward our gallery, I wouldn't like it...unless it brought in droves of visitors, that is). As much as folks have hoped that the downturn would spur a new era in art making, I've been secretly hoping it would also inspire a new boldness in art criticism. It's not at all surprising to me that CVF is out there leading that charge.

Labels: art criticism


Blogger beebe said...

"Works like these only really make sense inside an MFA program. Before the crit."

This line perfectly describes the show. However, I'd argue that the works look like they were made *after* the crit. The impression I got was that a vast majority of the works might have started off as simpler, more cogent pieces . . . but the work then ended up all fucked out exactly because of the kind of rhetoric that goes on during crits in MFA programs. A young MFA candidate hears a dozen voices in a critique and tries to accommodate them all--this show is the disappointing result. So many of the works seem to be grappling with so many ideas, "dialogues" and paradigms that almost nothing substantive is delivered.

6/02/2010 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

CVF says: " . . .(when the ratio of women to men in an exhibition actually changes its quality, someone please let me know)."

OK, that's easy: I'd say that the Whitney Biennial was better this year when the number of women was substantially larger. Indeed, it was those artists in large measure who made a better biennial--as well as a curator who actually put the work before his own carefully crafted career statement.

6/02/2010 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Just for clarity, Joanne, are you saying that the quality of an exhibition depends on how many women are in it?

It's one thing to say the women artists who happened to be in the Biennial were the strongest artists in it (but you could argue that of any WB in any year)...which is what it seems like you're saying in your last sentence, but it's entirely something else to say it was better because (and only because) it had more women than men in it, which is how your other statement reads and which I think is problematic.

6/02/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Hmm.. Maybe he's brilliant at saying "this show sucks!" in about 50 different ways, but from the distance here, it's hard to pinpoint at any tangible argument about the actual art (apart from the fact that too much art there seems to be about "blackness", which still doesn't tell me how great or badly that topic is being covered).

Since when is Installation a media?

Cedric C

6/02/2010 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ben Will said...

I forgot what real art criticism sounded like. Its been so long. Very refreshing.

6/02/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Women have better stats at the U. And spend much less time looking at porn.

Does that affect any quality, anywhere? What does that mean?
It must mean something.

Cedric C

6/02/2010 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Since when is Installation a media?

"Installation" has been used a term comparable to those used for actual mediums for quite some time. You could use "mixed media" but that could also describe smaller (i.e., not experiential) works. The connotation of using "installation" as a medium is a larger, perhaps room-sized, work that you could (if not actually can) walk into, meant to be viewed as a compositional and/or experiential whole.

6/02/2010 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

There are some good lines, and some bad ones. The bad ones wear pop culture references like they were merit badges, and they stumble along unmusically. The real work of criticism doesn't get going until the fifth paragraph. Mostly this piece makes me miss Robert Hughes.

6/02/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I haven't seen the show but his referring to the general picture: "In the visual arts, postminimalism recently gave way to Some New Thing, though no one has yet been able to identify that slouching beast." motivates me to go check it out.

It's good to have HIM on your side, nice mention!

6/02/2010 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

As Ms Louise Bourgeois has been quoted as saying:

An artist can show things that other people are terrified of expressing.

Sometimes it is necessary to make a confrontation – and I like that.

So if artists are willing to say out loud (and they must!) what others whisper behind the naked king concerning his absence of wardrobe, well then the art critic need be even more direct in his opinions and observations concerning art and its artist.

6/02/2010 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous handsmile said...

My goodness, what has inspired this sudden outbreak of dyspepsia among our cultural watch-kittens? It is not merely their fulminating rhetoric but the targets of their ire - both individual and institutional - that strike one.

Note Roberta Smith's recent defenestration of Shepard Fairey (Deitch). More astonishing was Ken Johnson's barrage on the heretofore impregnable Richard Prince (Gagosian). Now Viveros-Faune's broadside against MOMA's finishing school. Readers may also be amused by the Guardian's Jonathan Jones current obituary on the YBAs.

Could fears that employment perches might soon follow that of their film critic brethren have bestirred their normally decorous sensibilities?

6/02/2010 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Remember this post of Ed's in 2008? The high contrast, no room for grey. crowd in the blogosphere searching for puritan fulfillment and cheering on his dismissal at the Voice. Those were headier times and this kind of writing is what we missed.

At #class I sat across the table from him and found his intellect impressive, agree or disagree he brings a sharpness back to the public arena.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I found Franklin's remark catty.

6/02/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

There is a trend. I've noticed how much sharper the reviews in AiA have been over the past 6 months or so. Even the usual reviewers there have started underlining the negatives to a show, in a much more forthright way. The old thing of just 'description' is now balanced against terse evaluation.

It's interesting. Is it down to the new editor, Marcia E. Vetrocq?
Art criticism is definitely responding to something. across the board. Whether it's the spirit of the times or just marketing, I can't really tell.

6/02/2010 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Criticism in a fight for its life against the ogres of commerce.

6/02/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...

Well, it certainly was bitchy, which I'm always down for, though not exactly enlightening (I mean, it's a short piece, and the show is massive, so I don't know how much one can reasonable expect), and I do have some problems with it.

I think the execrable "neo-primitive" thing that's been happening for a decade and been in vogue at the major galleries for at least the last six years needs to be seriously examined (and ideally made to go away), but the sheer consistency with which other artists coming out of the Bush-II years have been adopting a disengaged, new-agey type of aesthetic is enough to make me wonder if there isn't something to it that I'm just temperamentally unable to engage with. That said, its casual dismissal in the review smacks of a kind of fogeyism about as square as, well, a joke about tramp stamps.

The comments about the race/gender breakdown, however, have a distinct whiff of Whitney-93 reactionary bullshit to them, and I don't feel they should be given a pass. Anyone who purports to have miraculously unhinged notions of "quality" from historical and contemporary conditions of marginalization is guilty of some particularly egregious cultural chauvinism, but it could be that I've been in Canada (the country, not the gallery) for just a bit too long.

6/02/2010 12:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Compare it to the recent review of Sex and the City 2 by Lindy West, which is a masterpiece of excoriation and makes CVF sound like a snippy dinner party guest in comparison. Don't get me wrong - the show sounds ridiculous and I'm glad he had the presence of mind to come down on it. But as a piece of writing it's a little better than serviceable. I would welcome an emboldening of criticism because it would give me more outlets to write for, and it beats the hell out of timidity, but it's easy for a certain kind of critical personality to fulminate on cue. (Trust me.) I don't think bluster is needed so much as insight, more eye, and more distrust of the intellectual underpinnings (real or vaunted) of much of the work on display.

6/02/2010 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Sorry, but West's review reads as if she entered SATC2 expecting it be something other than it has consistently been for the past 13 years. The same criticism could be lobbed any the first film or any of the episodes from the series. That's your epitome of insightful criticism...a snarky recapitulation of the bleeding obvious?

6/02/2010 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

I thought the rule was that art critics were allowed to criticize anything they wanted to as long as it wasn’t art.

Things they can criticize:

Biennials (criticism mandatory)
Museum tent-pole exhibitions
Group shows
Young/emerging artists (but only as “bad choices” in group shows)

Things they can’t criticize:

Solo shows (unless they can blame everything on the curator)
Rank and file artists
Blue chip artists (criticism forbidden)

Donald Thompson says flat out that art critics have no effect on today’s art market. I can believe that.

Also I agree with Steven that CV-F’s remarks on women and minority artists were not as cool as he obviously thought they were when he wrote them. In fact they seem to emerge from his willingness to trash as many young artists as he needs to in order to “make his point” about the show.

(Still, I gotta admit he IS right about your photography show. If I were down in NYC I would definitely come see it.)

6/02/2010 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the kind word John, but I think Christian is right to open up the dialog to a post-PC discussion of issues and such. I've written on this before and I'll repeat it here :

"My personal take on political correctness is that it's an artificial construct that has benefits in the short run, but will outlast its usefulness and eventually become harmful. What I mean by that is shaming people into considering others' feelings (or at least keep their hurtful opinions silent) long enough for those others to gain some power socially is a good thing, but for everyone to truly be on an equal playing field, that pseudo-politeness eventually has to end. It's foolish to think you'll ever get everyone to like/accept each other. The only practical thing you can hope for is that people have equal opportunity and equal protection under the law and that with those protections they can fairly fend for themselves."

As in all things...the sooner we begin to talk as openly about issues such as gayness or blackness or men-ness or women-ness, the sooner we'll be operating in a truly equal opportunity environment, rather than just hoping for one.

6/02/2010 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@John, these assumptions (rules) are being challenged as criticism seeks its transgressive side.

6/02/2010 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Ed, I’m all for the dialog, but it is one that affects people’s lives and needs to be conducted with some thought and with some attention to making sure that all interested parties are involved. And certainly, the way to open it is not with the snarky one-liners of CV-F’s essay. I’m not questioning your position on the issue at all, or even your generally favorable take on the article. I don’t have the same appreciation for it, I’m happy to let it go at that.

George I’m all for transgression, but critics are journalists and journalism is a sinking ship. I’m not sure they can save themselves. Artforum can get all the blurbs they need from academics who already have jobs and don’t even need to be paid. ;)

6/02/2010 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Since the crash the art world has been confused and probing for some clear direction. Adding to the confusion has been the spiky sales results in the auction market, which is in its own type of malaise that they don't want you to think about. No matter, as they try to turn a couple of youngsters, or "revisit" a contingent of 80's painters who never managed to work their way out of the sandbox they started in.

The art world power structure, having soured on the almighty dollar as the final arbitrator of taste, is left to seek solutions based upon actual experience of the art itself. Ed's recent foray into the anonymous serves to point out the conflicts between the actual experience of the art and the influence of its pedigree.

It seems to me that until this year, the critical community was just being dragged along in the backwash of commerce. It was Roberta Smith who stepped up to the plate to say, wait a minute, what about this? Jerry Saltz started his own online Facebook talk show which I'm sure other critics hate. Both have acted in a transgressive manner against the perceived status quo and regardless of how one feels about their positions, they have altered the playing field for criticism.

The artworld is in serious need of serious thinkers. I've participated on a couple of online discussion groups and I'm appalled by how moribund most artists views are. So whatever the hell is going on in the press, anything is better than it was.

6/02/2010 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I said it was a masterpiece of excoriation, not the epitome of insightful criticism, which I think is too much to ask of a review of SACT2. A good laugh at its expense is enough. No, the epitome of insightful criticism has been issuing from the notably snark-free keyboard of Bunny Smedley. She has no equal stateside. And I'm glad you bring it up, because ultimately these are not compatable projects, hence my previous point. The hard problem, one that only a handful of art critics has solved, is to write art criticism that holds up as literature. I had my copy of Nothing If Not Critical out recently for reasons unrelated to this discussion, and I think Hughes did it. Whereas CVF has written something here that isn't going to age well. Better luck to him next time.

6/02/2010 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

but critics are journalists and journalism is a sinking ship.

Bull5h!t, you are mistaking difficulties in the means of delivery (the print media) with the practice of journalism.

Within five years a majority of the books, news and other journalistic endeavors will be delivered electronically, and print will find a niche market. Do not assume it will be free. People pay for print newspapers today and will pay for some electronic equivalent in the future.

As business models normalize and are accepted by the public, journalists will find themselves in increasing demand because there is a large market for it.

6/02/2010 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Two things seem clear to me about the future of art journalism – if it’s to have a future that is.

(1) It will happen on the web and will be fully assimilated to the web way of doing things.

(2) Its central focus will be young artists and the wide end the artworld funnel.

If it survives it will be more agile, more adventurous, more self-reliant. Less reactive, less timid, less dependent on others to set its agenda.

At least that’s my totally pulled out of my ass opinion.

6/02/2010 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

George, I only said it was sinking ship, that doesn't mean it actually will sink. There may yet be some way to plug the gaping whole in the hull. All that's needed is some modern technology. Look at BP. ;)

Seriously though, I really hope you're right. And maybe you are. But as of now I just can't see how it's going to happen.

But I guess this is getting off-topic (not to mention very speculative).

6/02/2010 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Considering the size of the "Greater New York 2010" exhibition the tone of his review is more important than its specific content. Essentially CV-F is taking a personal stand, exhibiting a degree of independence outside of the box which has has some similar implications to Roberta Smith's Post-Minimal to the Max which set the art world abuzz.

To those who think that the critical community has no influence, consider how Jerry Saltz shamed MoMA into rethinking the gender mix of works on exhibit.

6/02/2010 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@John, Apple is projected to sell 7 million iPads this year but I think the general estimates for all versions of electronic readers underestimate the demand once a critical mass is reached by content providers. Laptop sales are approaching 400 million worldwide and I think that future portable devices will all accommodate electronic publishing. E_Reading is a software solution which can be shared between platforms and gravitate towards a universal file format.

Artforum is destined to become a coffee table magazine, just glossy pictures and ads with all critical content delivered electronically. What the art world needs is an accessible professional repository like arXiv and/or aggregator sites which will act like electronic newsstands. I just don't think anyone as really thought through all the possibilities.

This all might seem a bit off topic but I would suggest it is not, Rather I believe critical journalism is going through an evolutionary phase by trying out every possible approach. Somewhere there is a viable and profitable solution.

6/02/2010 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

@ Ed: Sorry, I've been away from my computer today. You said: "Just for clarity, Joanne, are you saying that the quality of an exhibition depends on how many women are in it?"

I was responding specifically to CVF's remark, ". . .when the ratio of women to men in an exhibition actually changes its quality, someone please let me know."

I was letting him know that the recent Biennial is a case in point, that the increase in women artists did make a difference, because it was the best Biennial in a long time. Biennials, as you know, have not been particularly inclusive of women.

6/02/2010 06:37:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

George, I totally agree with you that the infrastructure just keeps getting better and better, from ever increasing broadband capacity to more and more powerful applications and user devices. The problem for journalism isn’t the packaging and delivery of content, it’s the business model. Who pays for the content? How much? Where does the money come from? How is it able to be profitable?

Journalists need to make money to live, just like artists and everybody else. Maybe not a lot, but enough. Plus many projects have additional expenses – travel, equipment, contracted services, and so on – that also have to be paid for. These additional expenses can really add up, and simplest way to avoid them is to simply not do such projects. Stick to ones that a journalist can do sitting in their bathrobes in front of their computer googling for the information they need – they’re the cheapest.

And they can be made even cheaper by getting the work from a freelancer out in cottage industry land who will deliver an article for $25-$30 a pop.

BTW I think both Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz are great critics. Both are willing to take on the art establishment and particularly the big museums (though I should have put them on the list of things that critics are allowed to criticize, they are such sitting ducks). I also know from his two books that Jerry Saltz actually will criticize art, or at least state honestly how he responds to it. It is touching to see him soften some of his “meaner” statements in notes on the reprinted reviews.

6/02/2010 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

We're talking about a huge exhibition of beginners. It's supposed to have tons of bad art. That's where you start to filter the good art. What do you expect? Maybe the better artists are not interested in participating in a show with such a boring title and context as "Greater New York". I mean, I certainly wouldn't. Or I would, but be embarassed by it.

The key emerging show in New York is the Whitney, and it's got positive reviews.

I'm not impressed, because 90% of Greater New York artists are not going to make it. Why bash on them? It's easy to put a bunch of 2weeks old kittens in a bag and drown them. It's easy to be cruel. You want me to applaud such initiave?

Cedric C

6/02/2010 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse Patrick Martin said...

Regina Hackett slams another show with equal scathing aplomb on her blog (

And why shouldn't "emerging" artists - especially those who are included in over-hyped annuals, biennials, and galleries - be treated with the same fierce regard as more "established" ones?

We shouldn't wear kid-gloves or throw around platitudinous nonsense just because an artist is having their first show or included in "beginner's" venue. It's not "cruel" to be discerning, intelligent, passionate, and *critical* - what's cruel is having to be inundated by waves of crap art, overblown exhibitions, and limp writing by "established" critics who are just resting on their laurels.

6/02/2010 11:43:00 PM  
OpenID thepurposeofart said...

Whatever happened to asking more of oneself even as you ask more of others. I may be a culturally starved fool out in Kansas City, but after watching James Kalm's video report of the the Greater New York show, I wish that I could hop on a plane and see it firsthand. I know that I could get more out of the experience than the blind big-mouthed peanut gallery that is heaping criticism upon the show.

As far as the new fad of sound byte criticism goes I think that it's time for some critics to try and process a thought before speaking. it's nice to get the sense of one's gut reaction, but I'm more interested in what lies beneath the reaction. Why is so much of this art looking like a graduate critique? Is it a bad thing for art to pose questions and exist in an open-ended state?

Personally, I thought the show looked worth my time, but if I didn't like it, perhaps I could at least offer a constructive response that might generate some thought rather than a cute chuckle.

We need a few more critics like Michael Kimmelman, when will he be back in New York?

6/03/2010 02:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...maybe the trend is bleed over from the Simon Cowell style of judging being taken as a form of criticism.

Maybe criticism does need exposure through other media as many have mentioned above. But don't discount the printed word completely. You can now add hyperlinks to the printed page (or any object) which allows interfacing to other parts of the web. The printed word may soon become just another "interface" to the web of data.

You know "Franklin", with a telling name as yours (being frank with your considered opinions) do continue your hand at art criticism. If I recall I have seen you do a vid-pod cast on a art show (forgive my memory), maybe you can bridge the chasm between the considered word and visual content on the web. Ive seen people do "math" courses as stand up lecture via video/montage and they have opened the world of math to a much larger audience. Having a proponent for good art is always a good thing.
Go for it!

6/03/2010 06:22:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

@John, regarding journalism and business models. At the present people expect the stuff on the web to be free. However, in the past they were willing to pay for newspapers, magazines and books and I expect this will be the case with electronic delivery in the future. How payment is made is undergoing a period of exploration and the iTunes model of paying by song has been remarkably successful. I can envision a similar approach where the consumer pays just to buy one song, read the sports section, read art magazine etc.

Once the fractional payment models are in place they create a revenue stream in addition to those from the sale of advertising. This will make it possible to pay the journalists who will become increasingly in demand. With the increasing growth of information there is also an increasing need to sort it through a journalistic and editorial filters.

For example I read MIT's Technology Review, specifically the arXiv blog. The writers of the arXiv blog sort through the most recent published articles and write less technical summaries. This is invaluable because it saves me, the consumer, time since I don't have to do what the blog writers do, read the articles and flag the interesting ones.

I realize that journalists must currently feel under pressure to survive but I believe this is only because we are in the evolutionary phase between the industrial age (print copy) and the information age (bit copy).

6/03/2010 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Gam, thanks for the encouragement. You must be thinking of someone else's video - I've never done one. I will continue to write though. I have a couple of pieces slated for one of the papers up here in Boston in July, and I hope more to follow. In April I retired, and over the last month I've folded my online writing into my personal site. New entries come out on Mondays and the format is quite a bit different - notably, the comments are gone except as a Reader Mail section each week.

Journalism will find a way. Criticism will too, but it's harder to see how. I tend to think that art criticism is going to become a completely hyphenated profession, its practitioners carrying on as artist-critics or journalist-critics or teacher-critics or somesuch, with the left side of the hyphen making ends meet, and the whole person being the point of interest. That was the rationale behind my site redesign. Ed has written about this phenomenon.

Something else that's important to note about art is that decades of self-consciously inpenetrable analysis, and production designed to entice that analysis, has resulted in art that speaks to far fewer people than film, computer games, fiction, and pretty much every other creative endeavor. Consequently demand for art criticism is comparitavely paltry, with a predictable effect on prices. Regardless of whatever new model comes up, pay rates for art criticism are going to be ridiculous for a long time and may stay that way permanently unless contemporary art curators cultivate wider preferences. As Ben Davis convincingly put it, "If the art world continues to recycle the same old anti-historic academic bullshit and chirpy gossip then it is going to continue to be a place of intellectual irrelevance and triviality that no one takes seriously besides the people who inhabit it."

6/03/2010 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Greater New York 2010" makes much of its laudable emphasis on "the process of creation and the generative nature of the artist's studio and practice." It has given over museum galleries "as studio space to create work on-site," embraced a workshop aesthetic that enables artists to present ongoing pieces."

I think this is an interesting topic, but I wish CVF had fleshed it out. My own take is that it's fine if you're José Clemente Orozco painting a fresco during the 19040 MoMA exhibit "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art" or perhaps if you're Marina Abramović using the museum for a large-scale performance piece, but, generally, the people showing at PS1 just don't have the stuff. The processes and end products were not compelling.

6/03/2010 12:37:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Hi George, the iTune model has definitely worked, but it's somewhat of an anomaly, and its success obviously owes a lot to the Apple brand and of course the iPod and its brothers and sisters.

In terms of art, I've looked at a wide range of websites and I've seen only a very limited number of business models that seem to work at all. artnet seems to be the most successful site. As I'm sure everyone here already well knows, its core business is selling auction data on a "freemium" basis. At least four other sites have tried to invade their territory but, as far as I can tell, haven't made significant inroads.

artnet has also gotten into another business, which is online auctions (which actually seem to work fairly well for photography). There are some other sites that are in the business of selling "affordable" art online, of which Jen Bekman's 20x200 seems to be the most successful (again, works especially well with photography).

Some magazines are going with the paid subscription model, particularly ones that never had, or once had but have shut down, a print operation. I don't know how they're doing.

Other than that I've only seen advertising, including both display advertising and premium artist profiles (another instance of the "freemium" model).

Oh yes, and there's the flickr, where you upgrade your profile to not have to look at advertising (a twist on the "freemium" model where you pay not to get something).

I suppose the online mags are selling editorial content part of their subscriptions. I don't think anyone else is. Many of other kinds of sites have editorial content or what looks like it (well written blurbs relating to their services), but it also seems to be free. Plus some sites offer user generated content to those who are desperate for something to read.

I don't see anything that looks promising for the art journalist or critic.

What you say about arXiv sounds interesting, I'll have to check it out. I'm not sure how it would apply to the art world though, unless maybe in the area of rolled up reporting on auction sales and trends.

6/03/2010 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

@ George: Huge expense in print journalism are no longer incurred when the publication is electronic: cost of paper, printing, and delivery--all extraordinarily high (and all the antithesis of green).

So even with paying journalists a decent wage, and providing benefits such as health insurance and retirement, it should be possible to offer an online publication for free --if advertisers stick with the new format. And given that subscriber info is probably going to be sold a million times over, that's additional income.

As e-publications continue to grow, more work will be produced from home offices. Everyone will effectively become her/his own "bureau"--or more realistically, function as a freelancer. Perhaps an additional stipend will help the writers accommodate an office or workspace in a home or apartmant (good luck with that in Manhattan) and the company coule employ a PC support team that makes housecalls.I wonder if the profesison will evolve/devolve into a a union of freelancers with benefits?

6/03/2010 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Those poor women! One tattoo in a particular location and branded for life.

6/03/2010 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

John, most of what we currently see online, ArtNet etc is fairly crude and not very innovative. Accordingly to artists were late adopters of the internet. I participated in a FB group [Artopia] discussion about the affect of the internet on art but I was disappointed to find that most answers were pedestrian and lacked any imagination for the future. (I've since left the group)

I think what is needed are continuing attempts to re-imagine the internet and its platforms for disseminating information tailored for a specific audience. Two areas which have achieved some degree of success are providers financial information and porn.

Still most people are looking at these possibilities primarily targeted towards a website model and this is only one of the available approachs.

For example, when I first joined Facebook in 2008 artists hadn't really embraced it, a year later I noticed evidence of a growing acceptance acceptance by (big name) galleries and their artists. There is a large community of artists on Facebook and this means that it has a potentially large audience.

Because FB is interactive, viewers can make comments or acknowledgments [like] which creates a two way dialog of sorts. Jerry Saltz is using this to great effectiveness to personalize art, the artists, and the issues. In spite of the expected fawning, his approach is quite revolutionary and interesting. He breaks down the barrier between the critic and the audience, in real time warts and all.

In the end what is needed is this type of exploratory formatting because at some point the artworld will find other options other than selling prices as a business model.

6/03/2010 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Joanne, green is good, but cost reduction, once it gets going, moves quickly and soon gets to people, i.e. headcount, salaries, benefits, working environment, etc., and finally eliminates them altogether if at all possible. The only thing stopping moving art criticism to Bangalore is the irritating requirement that the reviewer actually see the show before writing about it. And I bet they’ll come up with a solution to that, if they haven’t already. I’m not dismissing what you say, I’m just very aware of how much American workers are getting squeezed in the interest of “rich get richer”.

George, I was really taken aback when I first noticed how primitive most sites aimed at the art world were, especially given that it is presumably one of the most visually sophisticated populations there is. I inferred what you confirm, which is that the art world is a later comer to the web and is playing catchup. But why are the fashion and design people, and for that matter artists themselves, so much farther ahead? I concluded, rightly or wrongly, that the sites were aimed mainly at collectors and that that group didn’t get where it is by spending their days in front of computers. (Well, maybe the investment bankers did, but their screens are as bad as the art ones.)

It’s interesting in this regard that the sites that went after artnet made a clear effort to leapfrog them in terms of features and user experience. MutualArt in particular brought an awful lot of new technology into the battle. But it hasn’t made a big difference, at least not yet. Plus artnet is not sitting still and has done a lot to make its site more user-friendly.

As to facebook, I’ve just recently become a real user (log on several times a day, look for the little red numbers) and am testing it out as a tool for following contemporary art photography, which is my special interest. So far the little jury inside my head is out. It’s fun to watch 150 people tell Jerry Saltz how to make coffee, and I do see announcements that I might otherwise miss (or see too late), but in general people seem to adapt their behavior to the site (i.e. act like all the rest of the 500 million people there do) rather than adopt the site to serve their own purposes. Unless maybe it’s just I don’t have very good friends.

Facebook, for all its elite Ivy League origins, is a one size fits all site. I sometimes wonder whether the artworld would be served by a social networking site that was aimed specifically at them and designed to serve their needs. But what are their needs? That’s the big question. To track news, to network, to promote themselves and their enterprises, to do research, to publish, to buy and sell? Some of these? All of these? Something else? I’m not sure what the needs are, but I do think that the art sites that succeed and prosper in the coming years will be the ones that serve those needs.

6/03/2010 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Miles said...

I have mixed feelings about the Voice review. While I think that the Times piece read too much like a press release, I wonder if these artists deserved this kind of skewering. I casually knew previous Greater NY artists that simply seemed to fall off the face of the earth. While I suppose an impassioned disagreement is a richer and more useful response to apathy, are these artists too low on the food chain to recieve this ire?

6/03/2010 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous kim matthews said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but this bit left me scratching my head and I'd love an explanation: "In the visual arts, postminimalism recently gave way to Some New Thing..." Just whose postminimalism would that be? Not Eva Hesse's, who, although long deceased, is as relevant as ever. Richard Serra, maybe, because he hasn't made a big splash since his career retrospective? Certainly not Anish Kapoor. I just hate statements like that that aren't backed up...unless, of course, it's implicit and I'm just not in the know.

6/03/2010 08:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I guess I'm not difficult. I think there is plenty of great writting about art on the net. I can't even keep up to date. If only it was just the english sites.


Back in 1995 I wrote some pseudo-thesis at U about internet art (it was supposed to be an essay, but I came back with a 100 pages brick, and about 300-400 pages of research sources, you can still read the teacher' mark saying "This is a THESIS, not an ESSAY.").

And so, I had listed every possible art web project I could find (attempting to delineate a categorization of interfaces), which was possible because I asked every participant around at Isea 95 to name me everything they could think of. There was art very early on in WWW, but most of these artists were (and are still) pigeonholed as "technological" artists (Frenkel, Legrady, Muntadas, Dement, Rapoport, Stelarc, Hershman Leeson, Kac, countless forgotten, with maybe Jaar a rare one that became sort of a blue chip).

Many of these artists were dealing with computer art before WWW,
so the switch post-1991 was natural for them.

All this bragging is to say that I was witness of the early emergence of internet art. Too bad the media became so underestimated.

Cedric C

6/03/2010 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Franklin 11:27 AM:


6/04/2010 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Creedance said...

This is a return to a pre-sift review of the art show so viewers won't waste their time going out to view it, though this review makes one want to see it, just to join in the tomato throwing.
The question for critics is, does one try to get as many people to come out and see a show to help with the posterity of the art community as a whole, so we all benefit, or do I call it like I see it? - a much more appropriate thing to do for a critic.
I do think Christian Viveros-Fauné is using a vernacular that would mostly be understood, or taken most seriously by the "MFA" age group that he is writing about. His description of the "slouching beast" which I assume means lazy youth is a stance he is taking throughout the review as someone patting the backs of the educated art elite but still writes insults like "Squarer in its American Apparel nonconformity than a tramp stamp". My first thought after reading this review was - what's wrong Christian, no jobs at Vice magazine on the DOS & DON'TS page?... self hating hipster.
I also didn't understand what he was driving at by pointing out that the percentage of women/men was slightly higher than usual. Why does having more women than usual mean political correctness? The fact it wasn't a very white show shouldn't have mattered because we are in NYC not Maine. To top it off, stating or quoting it was a very gay show, is a reminder that in the art world, gay is something that should not be tainted by fashionable usage? (what about in art criticism?)
This whole article reeks of over indulgent immaturity and underlying older/younger hipster rivalry. Since you are quoting Courtney Love (which is not exaggerating the breadth of your vocabulary), I have another popular 90's slang for you: poser
Edward, I know you will acuse me of being harsh among other things, but you don't need his tacked on praise, everyone knows your show is outstanding. Saying that your show is better than the POS he just described is insulting though I'm sure he didn't think about writing about what was worth seeing. Should have spent one paragraph writing about PS1 and the rest of the article on what was worth viewing (or at least what was worth pulling myself away from the Winkleman Blog to see.

6/04/2010 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

in terms of new media for art criticism, imagine the critic goes to a show, passes some interesting art somewhere, then tags the wall/floor nearby (IE with something like this: )

then they place their art critique on the web to be accessed via that placed tag "address". On their critique hosted on the web a sponsor could support his endeavors in some manner. So the critic has given access to his considerations without interrupting the art exhibit, but the person accessing his commentary AT the exhibit gets a broader range of thought/dialogue to consider.

It would place art criticism back in the gallery space, without cluttering that space up with distractions ....might be a step in the right directions as it even opens the dialogue of criticism up to the public to engage with across time, as this could easily be applied to public art ... imagine reading a criticism 100 years old and contributing to a debate that had gone on that long ....

6/04/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't seen the show yet but the very idea of a survey about what art trends in a specific location or even country at this late date when everyone has access to everything is kind of silly. It speaks more to curatorial choices than anything else, which in the opinion of CVF means done to death identity art and lame half assed slacker painting. I'm inclined to agree with him but gotta say he's does have a tendency to get carried away some times.

6/04/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Gam, I think your tag idea is really interesting. If you wanted, you could go even farther and make it a location based service that people could get on their iphones. They wouldn't have to enter a tag, just launch the app and let it determine it based on where they are. They might have to do a little hand selection when there’s more than one show in the gallery or there are multiple galleries in the building (say on different floors), but still, it would generally be very easy to zero in on the show they’re attending.

And while you're at it you could also make the service interactive and let gallery visitors thumb in their own “user reviews” at the time of their visits. Yelp for Art. That should liven things up.

I’m saying this in a lighthearted way, but I’m actually serious. User reviews are now at least as important as professional ones for hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. Is there any reason why the same couldn’t become true for art?

6/04/2010 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CV-F’s review left me curious about what he does like, so I looked up the Blake Rayne show at Miguel Abreu which he mentions, here is the press release:

While CV-F’s finds that “What ‘Greater New York’ exposes is a mountain of inarticulate art hiding from the conceptual rigors of the '90s”, I imagine this press release, as much as the show, would be gratifying to one who embraced the “conceptual rigors of the ‘90s”. To me it is rather dispiriting. How deeply initiated in artworld cant do you have to be to appreciate the “field of evasions and deflections, a material practice in which the artist is constantly displaced by language while being administered by institutional demands for certain types of artistic subjects” in this show? Kind of makes me want to go get a tramp stamp and buy some American Apparel to wear with my backward trucker hat.

6/04/2010 03:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

art is social, dialogue is good for it. what's appealing with the concept is it opens the door to "graffti" critiques as well as to professional ones. Yet still remains in the back ground, don't take the "hyperlink" and you remain in the calm of your contemplation of the art piece. It also keeps the sponsorship at a distance, outside of the gallery experience unless you access it and it is there.

For the professional critic, they no longer need the reader to access their thoughts via a journal, but can access the journal if you will via some web interface,... mobile critics with permanency.

Criticism remains a profession but opens its dialogue to other possibilities.

6/04/2010 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

You can already give your opinions
on sites like the Chelsea Art ...Guide? Forgot the title. Usually I'm surprised how little people make use of these wonderful systems. The rare people who are into reviewing art prefer to start their own blog (...and abandon them, if we take clue by the sheer amount of bloggers who have abandoned their sites).

I think people are condescending towards blogs and don't realize it's hard work. It's much harder to sustain a blog than to write one article per week for a journal that does all the editing for you.
I think many blogs died because of how little recognition the artworld gave them versus the mostly benevolent work.

Now people praise an official journal critique for writting just like a blogger. That pisses me off a little. CVF is where he's at because of all the art fags and art bitches of internet that permeated the last decade. I'll repeat: I'm not impressed.

Cedric C

6/04/2010 07:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sick of the bottom line in art. Nothing is interesting because investment is the basis of creating something new. We are all dust in the face of time. Let's make it count.

6/05/2010 12:27:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

First, and OT, I am wondering whether I will be the first to point to Marcia Vetrocq’s editor’s blurb in the June/July 2010 Art in America.

Cedric, are you by any chance thinking of, recently renamed to Just curious.

The problem with blogs is, there are so many of them and they are so hard to follow. Yeah you can do RSS and aggregators and other techy things to get a grip, but most people don’t bother and they just lose track. They may see a lot of blogs in their the course of their ADD link clicking and maybe even poke around in them a bit, but the chances of them returning are low, and of become regular readers practically zero. When all is said and done blogs are basically LiveJournals for adults.

Which is too bad, because a lot of them have great content. I feel like what’s needed is a place – a real, shared place, not a personally created pseudo-place – where the most interesting , insightful, and widely read blogs in a given general area (in our case, art) are brought together into the equivalent of a good old-fashioned magazine. It could be a mixture of regulars and other items whose current contents are deemed especially worthy of notice, with maybe brief editorial summaries of what bloggers are talking about from week to week. (Hmm, I see I’ve just more or less described Huffington Post.)

BTW I only follow a very small number of blogs myself, and this is one of them. Ed’s pieces are very enjoyable, but what really makes it for me is the community that has grown up around it.

6/05/2010 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer, but it looks to me like it's much easier for a critic to be scathing than to write a thoughtful piece. However, if we're talking about opinionated pieces with potent put-downs, Peter Schjeldahl's very succinct review of Urs Fischer's New Museum show wins the prize with this zinger: "If you spend more than twenty minutes with the three-floor extravaganza, you're loitering."

6/05/2010 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Positive or negative, being a critic isn't easy, it takes a particular kind of both commitment and intelligence.

Christian Viveros-Fauné is both intelligent and experienced within the art world. Yet a lot of less talented bloggers were foaming at the mouth to get him dismissed from the Village Voice in 2008 over a vague conflict of interest issue. Yet it is his breadth of experience which gives him a point of view which was acquired on the ground, in the galleries, the museums and in the artists studios rather than in the worlds of print and pixels like the majority of his readers

I've seen a number of exhibitions by young artists whose artworks are the product of a few pampered years in graduate school. The work is embarrassing to look at, embarrassing to talk about, and there are very few people willing to step up and tell them the truth. These artists are wandering down, what I fear will be a painful life path of disillusionment and bitterness. An early wake-up call is more humane than some suggest.

While I'm interested in the philosophy of art, I have little interest in criticism, primarily because if I can't say something nice (in print) I'd rather talk about something else. I would be inclined to ignore any writer made a habit of negative criticism because they do not further the dialog. This includes a number of outspoken bloggers with mouths bigger than their brains.

In the case of Schjeldahl's review of Urs Fischer, I find this refreshing since he provided a counterpoint response to the artists work. It is this dissension which inserts the work into the critical debate opening up the possibilities beyond glibly written press releases.

6/05/2010 05:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

For the record, it's a lot easier to write negative reviews than positive ones for the simple reason that the disagreement between you and the artist or you and the museum (or whatever) gives you free dramatic conflict. You can get several paragraphs of forward motion in your narrative without having to do very much, as CVF demonstrates in the essay under discussion. In a positive review, you have to cobble together the mechanism for forward motion from parts. Zingers are delicious but a well-written positive review is a thing of beauty.

There's an additional problem: It's easy to describe why bad art is bad, but hard to describe why good art is good. You can look at a bad work of art and think of improvements. When you look at great art you can't think of improvements. Masterpieces put a momentary halt to thought itself. So you end up having to overcome these hurdles of narrative and thinking for positive reviews, and part of the art of criticism is finding ways to do this, while giving the reader a sense of progress over the course of one or two thousand words.

I didn't remember so much foaming at the mouth, so I went back to the 2008 post linked by George and reread it. Tyler Green did a three-part interview with CVF that ended with the latter saying something glib about us art worlders not being nuns. Shortly after Tyler presented a reasonable argument that CVF's roles in the art world and in journalism were conflicted. The Voice let him go. George, at the linked post, called Tyler "a bit of a megalomaniac wielding gossip as a sword," thus producing the only foam I could find. Then an exchange between the concerned parties appeared in the Brooklyn Rail that made CVF look like an idiot. I would like to think that it was a low and uncharacteristic moment for him, but it didn't leave me with fond sympathies about the rest of his work, and it vindicated the bloggers.

6/05/2010 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

I think part of the difficulty with blogging is the incessant deadlines. It is easy to overlook that blogging is in many ways broadcasting. If Ed decided to take his entries to a biweekly schedule or just whenever he got around to it, his readership would plummet. In some ways it is like newspapers (maybe even tv). Yesterdays news is not read. It is the current edition that counts. As much as journalistic or entertaining content is crucial, ignoring the broadcast deadline is primordial. That's part of why I like the idea of a "critic" that is tagged to a location, immobile. It is there where you have most to judge its worth with, the art work. Whereas otherwise the critic is too often tied to a time delivery measurement. You may read a review of a show a year ago, but more likely you read what is just released. Geotagged critics would put the emphasis back onto the art in discussion, with less reliance on if the review is in todays newspaper/magazine/blog/twitter column.

6/06/2010 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

Gam, thanks for the clarification. I can see wanting to free the commentaries from the “today’s news” context that they’re generally encountered in putting them into a different, less time-sensitive one. But wouldn’t you want them to persist even after the show is over (or maybe moved to another location)?

Also, I wonder how far what you want could be achieved by a kind of virtual yelp, or maybe better, rotten tomatoes, where you look up a show, current or past, and get a list of links to all available online reviews of it. It wouldn’t surprise me if such service is buried in one or more of more full-featured art sites, but I don’t recall ever seeing it (plus sites compete and maybe don’t want to contain pointers to other sites’ content).

6/07/2010 12:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Julian said...

I must admit the review does present the challenges for viewing this exhibition. It also presents obstructions for viewers of the show to work with and consider. It's one critic and one review. All artists will tell you that everyone likes different work. Where you consider that a piece you've created is a real POS. Someone will wander by and say "i like this one", it throws you for a loop and you continue working. The same for art critics, someone may not like it, give their reasons which can be helpful sometimes, but you continue working. In the case of an entire show, the curators are in the same position, they listen, perhaps learn something, and then continue working. For most artists it must be hard to learn from positive reviews, and one must begin convincing themselves they are on the right track instead of considering why they might not be, this could create non-objective vanity and laziness. In the greater scheme of how it will alter the public perception of someone's work, artist or curator, is not worth fighting over, just count on the fact that people have a mind of their own and will make it up for themselves, they also have the right to voice and/or write it. I continue to hope that people that read art reviews don't stop there. This isn't the Bush era indoctrinated public is it? Is that too much to ask? Is the art-review reading public susceptible to one critique?

6/07/2010 04:05:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

A quick clarification: "Foaming at the mouth" was a general slam at bloggers with no one in particular being singled out.

6/07/2010 08:07:00 AM  

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