Everybody's an Art Critic

If they're college-educated, city-dwelling, 40-something white people, that is

The report's critics might have spared themselves the bother of getting so worked up over it if they had paid more attention to the modest intentions expressed in the introduction by author/project director András Szántó: "The visual arts have experienced a period of dynamic growth and professionalization over the past two decades in the United States... The findings of this unprecedented survey suggest that although art critics have carved out an important role at many publications, on the whole criticism has been struggling to keep up with the swift evolution of the art world."

I came away from The Visual Art Critic with a better understanding of who writes about art in America and how we approach our work. But the best commentary in the report comes, I think, from people who aren't critics themselves, including curators and academics.

The University of California's Svetlana Alpers, a professor emeritus in art history, writes, for instance: "I read newspaper art criticism for essentially two reasons: 1) to find out what there is to go and look at; and 2) to get a considered take on what that art is like, what its nature and concerns are, and how good, or even bad, it is. The first reason is practical, the second is critical."

That's as concise a characterization of mainstream art criticism as anything else I've run across.

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