James Elkins – A Critic of Art Criticism
How we can measure the influence of art critics today? Perhaps the easiest answer would be to check their social media accounts, and see how many people read their words. However, this simplistic approach does not reveal much regarding the quality of their work, as numbers and the quality of one’s writings are not always correlated. If we move away from social media and their influence, another option is to have a closer look at what certain critics have written, and how their written words affect the ways we see and understand art today. Some of them even engaged in writing about the art criticism itself, and its function within the complex web of contemporary art market guided by profit.
Their texts are active participants in the often arcane discourse on contemporary art, and they help us focus our attention on artworks that really deserve that name. While blogs, news articles and other mass media sources written by people coming from all walks of life contribute to the volume and variety of art criticism, the major critical texts still come from professionals in the field.
Art critics from the 20th century to the present day have always been guided by a certain set of values in their writings. Clement Greenberg is among the authors who exercised a great influence on the way abstract art is valued, but his formalist approach was later substituted by a wave of criticism that was more openly political. Feminist and Marxist analysis of art dominated 1960s and 70s, but remains also important and influential today. Postmodernism introduced a plurality of perspectives that also mark art criticism in the 21 century. Below, we selected a group of critics who are presently considered to be among the most influential in the art world.
Editors’ Tip: How to Write About Contemporary Art
How to Write About Contemporary Art is the definitive guide to writing engagingly about the art of our time. Invaluable for students, arts professionals and other aspiring writers, the book first navigates readers through the key elements of style and content, from the aims and structure of a piece to its tone and language. Brimming with practical tips that range across the complete spectrum of art-writing, the second part of the book is organized around its specific forms, including academic essays; press releases and news articles; texts for auction and exhibition catalogues, gallery guides and wall labels; op-ed journalism and exhibition reviews; and writing for websites and blogs.
Featured image: Rebecca Solnit. Image via speakerpedia.com
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