The Critic’s Panel
Please join Martha Schweneder, Jonathan T.D. Neil, Thomas Micchelli, and Christian Viveros-Faune to discuss the role of art criticism in relation to the art market.  We hope our central thesis “Art is luxury commodity for the wealthy that limits access to ownership, understanding, and participation…”  will function more as a question and a departure point for our participating critics.

Oh dear ! on the face of it this sounds very dodgy: an erstwhile blogger (me) who is an artist (me) doing a review of critics; really, really informed and influential (them).

But from the viewpoint of an unknown artist and ‘blogger’ (what’s in a name), with a relatively informed and critical eye, I can only come to this discussion from that angle.


Firstly though, I will mention one small person’s informed view of the general proceedings of the hashtag project discussions…. ‘when does the art part start?’. Indeed less words more art! couldn’t have put it better myself. But in the spirit of us grown-up’s preoccupation with debate, just a few more words…….

A note on the atmosphere of (all) the hashtag discussions so far, in that, they are by the nature of the Winkleman gallery space, quite cosy, the flow of debate is also relaxed but switched on (in general) and sometimes there is a tendency to ‘forget’ about the webcam in the corner, although not to the incoming tweets and messages from the wider audience.

This particular dialogue lasted for 3 hours, people certainly had things to say, no doubt about it, and quite a cross- range of points too.


The first comment was on the lines of, when at a cocktail party I don’t automatically introduce myself as an art critic. Hmmmm can’t help you their mate, I’ve got enough on my plate introducing myself as an artist.


Ustream still of the Critics debate

One that unanimously reverberated though, was similar in kind to that being bandied about by some journalists at the moment; the internet and dodgy content, money for informed work and defending the status quo (publications) or their source of bread and butter.

And although using terms like ‘clouds’ and the like there did seem to be a bit of a slipper and pipe attitude with references to the free for all on the internet (no doubt) and things like why should I be up for all that blogging, social media interwebbing stuff – I’ve got enough going on being a freelancer (excuse me shouldn’t that be more of a reason to?).

But was this more of a denial? that online work is significant in its presence if not in its authenticity (yet).Basically that there is a paradigm shift going on and they didn’t seem to want to recognise the fact.


Maybe I misunderstood? because I still can’t believe people – especially in the business of words and critic(al) information (as it seems, only in the arts comes with added power ) haven’t moved with this online information thought, even if it is fairly scary – bit like King Canute trying to hold back the tide.


Still, shrugging my disbelief aside I listened to other thoughts on the perceived ‘power’ of the critic their ability to build up and defame or change the way an artist works, in general shape the historical zietgiest as it happens.

Most were very concerned and defensive that as critics they had a responsibility to history and also to their moral code of ensuring impartiality and detachment even when reviewing friends or people they had an affiliation or affection with. I did notice a few tweets recognising ‘laughter at the thought of ethics and art’.

One genuinely helpful comment, that tried to set aside the meaning of a critic from (just) someone with an opinion, used the word ‘why’, on the lines of…. “as a critic I am passionate, I write about the work I am convinced about by being positive but you have to have or define your base line to say why you think X is bad and Y is good; why there is difference.”

In my book that is the whole point of having an opinion, not a gut feeling per se but the why.

Money was never far away, in fact I don’t think there was any one particular point in the whole discussion which didn’t give a nod to some manifestation of that; not being paid enough (obviously), and one that stood out with its deflector stance; as collectors being the gatekeepers of the art world.

Indeed, not critics then.


A lot more points were raised in detail and I shall be popping back and forth from this in relevant posts over the next few weeks.

But as the elongated discussion drew to a close. Being very informative, albeit philosophically, rather than in an actual hammering out of possible changes, a voice was raised …saying something like bloggers crave attention. Ouch!,  I read something similar by a writer the other week.

True not everyone is a writer, nor informed, but the general feel of that argument seems a poor attempt at stemming a tide (again) defensive and not very focused.

The line of thought then went on to discuss how the demand for popularising art is too broad – that there has to be a place for ‘high art’ or the kind of art that no one knows anything about, meaning some art is so inscrutable there is no translation. Even though some would want or desire it to be layman-ised and made accessible, really, connoisseurship and popularism don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Absolutely, but I was still picking up on, this vague or rather useful way of saying I’m in a (relatively) comfy place here and the need to defend it .

And in a different part of the creative globe this week Andrew Lloyd Weber offered similar defensive utterances on his new musical which has been berated by bloggers. Some of whom although termed bloggers are not necessarily joe public sat in the box room, but quite organised and ‘big’ concerns.

A sense of lack of control, me thinks. The article in the Observer likened the widening critical chatterings (and read somewhere else a reference to churnalism – rehashed news) to the new emerging coffee shops circa Charles the Second  who tried to get them banned. Baron Charles Louis von Pollnitz noted that the patrons of the quickly dubbed ‘penny universities’ “Talk of Business and News, read the papers, and often look at each other” they were in essence a cultural free for all.

The Guardian also rid itself of freelancers last year – one of whom  Paul Carr is now fully web user friendly, and it seems being paid enough by Techcrunch to stay semi permanent in LA hotels and the like. So overall I did get a sense of a fear of power being lost, trenching up into an Us vs Them mode .


Man Bartlett mentioned (tweeted) the other night that maybe one of the central issues of #class (the show and in the larger sense), should be the breakdown of the us v them mindset.