Saturday, March 10, 2007

Investigating Critics

Via Culture Grrl, I came across this article, or should I say investigative report, by Jen Graves that at its heart questioning the ethics of art critics collecting art. I found Graves article really well written and brings up some interesting questions and concerns that artists should consider. I personally do not know where I stand on this topic yet. On one hand it does seem to me unethical for critics to accept works of art for reviews, but then I am reminded by a quote I once read on the topic, where a critic stated, "I never accepted a work of art by an artist whose work I didn't like." (I'm paraphrasing here) The other side of this I think stems from the fact that most art critics are paid so poorly. The best art critics out there are the ones who truly love art so is it a surprise at all that they would want to own works they like? Artists often trade works with other artists in order to collect pieces, so I understand the desire for poor art critics to try and barter for art as well. This is not to say I don't see the darker side of the practice, only that I understand why this issue is such a gray area. The question I guess each artist needs to ask themselves is this, What is a good review worth to you?

7 Responses to “Investigating Critics”

Liriodendron said...
March 12, 2007 at 7:54 AM

If you write honest reveiws of art that excites you, sooner or later you might want to BUY a piece. Kangas sounds kreepy.....I might have to ask if I could buy something by paying a little each month, but I would certainly pay it all off. Most artists I know appreciate getting paid for their work.

Anonymous said...
March 13, 2007 at 11:14 PM

I don't think a critic should own work of an artist she or he has reviewed. Nor should she review work of an artist whose work she owns. I think it's very simple. You can love work and own it and not have to write about it. There's plenty to write about. And if you just love an artist that you've reviewed, sorry, you'll just have to "own" the work in your head. Otherwise it is unethical. Period.

Richard said...
March 15, 2007 at 8:52 AM

Well, I think it's totally acceptable for a critic to own work by an artists that he or she has reviewed, and that it's totally acceptable to accept gifts. But asking for or demanding gifts is just sleezy.

I really don't have a problem with this kind of transaction, and this is also assuming that transaction can take place, that the art is able to be 'given' (size, concept, etc.).

As to anynmous up there, I don't understand the hard-line stance on critics not owning art.
What better way to understand a work than to have it hang on your walls at home and walk by it daily? I have no idea why this would be unethical in anyway.

Of course, it's totally shady to put up a show, promote it and review it and disclose his or her connection.

But seriously, I'm considering make a post about some artists that I would like some "gifts" from, even though I haven't done anything for them.

Liriodendron said...
March 17, 2007 at 9:08 PM

I was thinking "sleezy" about Kangas also....but I was imagining him asking for paintings from artists he didn't even care about, just for investment purposes. (Of course, I have no idea if this is true or not, just my imgination running wild )
I wonder if he actually had local, original art beautifully displayed in his home....or just stockpiled and stacked against his walls.

If a critic really likes a certain artist, it seems natural for them to buy a piece or three. I think it speaks well of a critic who is genuine and enthusiastic enough to put their money where their mouth is.
Perhaps art critics should only write about their favorite artists once or twice though, but if you love something, why wouldn't you want to talk it up AND own it? It's a natural thing.
Requesting art (and lunch) for a review is abusive though.....and should be called out.
Now.....what I'm wondering about are critics who are also artists? Is this trouble? I sort of like the idea.......

Anonymous said...
March 23, 2007 at 10:08 PM

Richard, you have a way of reprasing posts that simplifies and confuses what the poster wrote. Why is that? Anonymous didn't say that critics should not own artworks. He'she said that critics should not own works of artists that the critic HAS REVIEWED. Perhaps you are not aware of the impact a positive review in the New York Times or Art in America or any of a number of other publications can have on the value of an artwork, but the impact is very large. Does that make the ethical problem clearer for you? It has nothing to do with understanding or appreciating an artist's work it has to do with possible financial gain and manipulating the market.

Richard said...
March 26, 2007 at 11:46 PM

Hmm... I'm confused.

I thought I made my stance pretty clear, and the Anonymous had a clear stance, and we disagreed.

Richard = okay critic to buy anything he/she wants (and can afford) and also okay to write a review of anything he/she wants.

I don't understand there to be an ethical dillemma here.

I think it's crazy to pretend that by not buying artwork that the reviewer is objective.

Chosing what is on display is not objective as chosing what is reviewed is not objective. Why should critics not allowed to by art by people they have reviewed. Is this to say, also, that museums cannot host shows about artists that they have in their collections because they might portray that artist in a non-objective light?

Or, that institutions can only have shows that are about artists that members of the Board of Trustees don't collect?

Anonymous said...
March 28, 2007 at 11:13 PM

The fact that buying and criticising art is based on subjectivity doesn't place the practices above ethical scrutiny or standards. Art critics have a tiny bit of power. Why should they not be asked to use that power ethically? Must everyone in this field be so self-serving?

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