Tag Archives: art critics

An Independent Critic

“I’m terrible with words,” Baby Guerrilla said in her acceptance speech on winning Two Years on the Wall at Union Dining in Richmond.

Yes, I know – artist are good with images and often terrible with words (there are exceptions, of course). And this is one reason why I often don’t consider it worth while talking to artist. There are other reasons why I don’t consider artist’s views that important. I don’t necessarily want to get that close – it creates too many conflicts of interest. Just because I appreciate your art I doesn’t mean that want to be a friend or your publicist (if I was your publicist you would pay me). And I can’t be bothered fitting in with artists’ travel, party or nightclubbing schedules – I have my own deadlines and I can’t wait weeks for a reply to my email.

I am an independent critic – for the artists who are terrible with words look up these two words in a dictionary. Many artists and designers have never had anything critical written about their work. For many the media exists solely as a source of promotional puff pieces and they are annoyed when this blog doesn’t fulfill that gushing role. Art critics are not just there to offer their opinions but to extend the conversation about the art. Without critics the limited conversation would go something like this: “Cool art”, “No, it is shit”, “Well I think that its cool”, “And I think that it is shit”, “We have different opinions”, “Yes, we have different opinions, we can agree on that.” The critic’s role is to extend that conversation for as long as possible by bringing in as much additional material to bear on these opinions as possible. To point out the positives and the negatives – it is not the roll of a critic to gush (see my post on Gushing).

Sunday Times Restaurant Critic A.A. Gill said: “The other thing that people you criticise never know and understand is that, like the mafia, it’s not personal. It isn’t about you, or me, it is about the third set of people in the equation: your audience and my readers. One of the great traps for critics is to believe they are part of the business they’re criticising. In the same way that a traffic warden isn’t part of the automotive business, I’m not part of the restaurant business.” (Smith Journal v.5 p.15)

I am not part of the art business and it is not my job to promote your exhibition, gallery or art.

It is inevitable that I will get to know some artists and gallery owners in my time writing this blog. I was at the Blender Xmas Party drinking the organic beer and hanging out with artists – Joel, Factor, Adi and Heesco. It might be fun but I have to ask myself is this a good use of my time as a critic and won’t it influence my next blog post on their art?

In the ecology of the art world critics are like wolves and other wild dogs, we are not the top predators but nevertheless we are necessary for the environment. We will abandon our kill to the big cats of the art world, the rich collectors and public art galleries (if they buy it we can but skulk around their kill waiting for them to leave so that we can pick over the bones). The effect of critics is grossly over estimated the wild herds of artists, we kill only those that would otherwise have died of disease or starvation within the same season. Sure we could reap havoc on an unguarded herd of dumb domesticated artists but maybe I’m stretching this metaphor a bit far wondering who is the farmer with the gun in this scenario.

Finally there is the right of reply to my posts in the comments section; it doesn’t get enough use.


There is now a donate button on my sidebar. I am asking for donations to my Paypal account. Your donation will help pay the ongoing expense of running this blog. Looking at the costs of transportation, broadband, books and magazines the expense of writing this blog is beginning to add up. If you have enjoyed reading this blog, especially those people who have subscribed, consider donating.

I have decided to try the donate approach to funding the production of original online content. I have tried finding sponsorship for this blog however it would be inappropriate for an art critic to be sponsored by a gallery. What would be appropriate is sponsorship from a business that makes money from art galleries and artists.

Mark Holsworth @ Sweet Streets festival

There are few benefits for being an art critic unlike movie and theatre critics who get free tickets. Sure there have been a few free drinks at openings but the gallery would give them to anyone and I am not a big drinker so all these free drinks aren’t doing that much for me. One of the very few freebees that I have received in writing this blog was a copy of Illegal Fame Winter 08 because I wrote a short review of an old issue of their magazine in this blog. (Big shout out to the guys at Illegal Fame.) This year I have been treated me like the rest of the media, so I have been to a few media previews and received media packs (along with tea and nibbles).

Another option for bloggers to make money is side projects; spin offs from the expertise that has been acquired from writing the blog. Maybe I still want that 2005 blogger’s dream – a book deal. Instead I have been doing a bit of work for people making documentaries about street art.

To subscribe to this blog click the “sign me up!” button near the top of the right hand column on the home page. Subscribers receive notifications of posts by email. I would never sell or pass on my subscriber email lists to anyone else but I am examining what I can do with it. Would subscribers tolerate a monthly email from me with targeted advertising, e.g. for an arts festival or exhibition? I have been considering other offers for subscribers e.g. talks, gallery and street art tours. What do you want as a subscriber? Please leave a comment.


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