Thursday, January 17, 2013

Art critics, where have they all gone?

The guardian's Jonathan Jones last week wrote on his ART BLOG lamenting the current trend for fawning art commentary, something which has gone hand in hand with the arrival of the celebrity artist in London. Jones mentions the Hatchet Job of the Year prize which rewards brutal book reviews and suggests there should be a similar award in the visual arts.

Jones further laments the death of Robert Hughes and comments, The sad death of Robert Hughes last year robbed art criticism in the English language of a courageous voice. Hughes was eloquent, honest, and did not care what artists, dealers and curators thought of him. One artist responded to his reviews by spreading libels, so Hughes simply published the libel himself and faced the artist down. The gory details can be enjoyed in his book of essays Nothing If Not Critical, which any aspiring critic should read at least 10 times... So where's our Robert Hughes? Cowering in the toilets at Tate Modern.

And I liked this bit... Grayson Perry is a fine pundit, an interesting curator, but as a visual artist he is a hack whose work churns around and teems with futile incidents in a way that totally fails to soar. Tracey Emin draws with more life than he does, but not half as well as any newspaper cartoonist. If you think Antony Gormley is a good sculptor, go and see the childish figures he carved on boulders outside the British Library in London. Jenny Saville? A heroic mediocrity. The bloated reputations of so many artists of our time offer critics a lifetime's supply of truth telling, so why hold back? We should be going after this lot (and loads more) all the time, and at full volume. Instead, they are more or less guaranteed nice reviews that ignore the pustules of badness that seep out of chic galleries.

Of course I think it's probably all the do with money, isn't most things these days. And I've always liked the line, nobody ever went broke underestimating the public taste. So very true.

Jones's complete piece can be read HERE and the 104 comments are well worth a read too. He must have struck a nerve!

Oh, and the photograph at the top of this post is a toilet at The Tate Modern, a picture I made back in November. No latter-day Hughes cowering there, although I didn't check the disability toilets!

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