Is Art Criticism Just Crap?

I have recently put together enough decent canvases and other pieces of art that the idea of a show comes readily to mind. I have even gotten to the point where, as I fitfully nap on the bus each morning and evening, I have begun to compose my Artist’s Statement. But I have been stopped in my tracks by a very fine essay from Professor Christian Demand entitled “Inflated Phrases“.

He suggests that much writing about art — review, catalogue text, laudatio and artist profile — is a “degenerate form of argumentative speech”, covering subjective opinion with inflated, vague, and pompous phraseology.

Most texts which accompany contemporary art production are so twisted and woolly that they could easily pass for self parody … I am driven by nothing more than the frustrations of a reader who is interested in art and who simply cannot believe the mass of linguistic strutting, moral imposture and lazy thinking that is inflicted upon him by this genre …

What bothers me is not so much the individual critical judgement but much more the activity of judging per se. So I don’t really care whether or not I can agree with other people about the importance of Jeff Koons or Tracey Emin, whether I can convince them about my opinions on the latest Turner Prize winner, or whether we can reach an agreement about how the London art scene could be more lively than the one in New York or Shanghai.  As far as I’m concerned – and please excuse this old fashioned expression – it’s all just a matter of taste and as such, can only be substantiated to a limited extent.

That goodness for common sense!  The essay moves on to discuss the far more contentious issue of whether art is “above” value and therefore does not have to justify itself.

It’s a good read.

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