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Journalistic Criticism


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Journalistic Criticism:

Popular entertainment or populist critique?

Keith Miller

Published in Art Criticism, Vol. 15, No. 2

Ernest : But what is the difference between literature and journalism?

Gilbert: Oh! Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.

—Oscar Wilde


Despite its questionable reputation among academic and artworld specialists, it would be difficult to overestimate the power of journalistic art criticism in daily and weekly papers of national importance. With an audience far broader than any of the more specialized journals and art magazines, these publications offer the possibility of an access point for an ever more detached and indifferent public to an artworld which alternately disdains and desperately desires that public. Embodied in the criticism of John Canaday and Michael Kimmelman, both chief art critics of the New York Times and separated by several generations, are two poles of journalistic criticism, which demonstrate both the potential power and the flaws of this field. On one side stands the possibility of being the questioner of the new, the angry critic railing against excess. On the other is the eminent insider, enthusiastically celebrating much of the work produced. In both cases the broader public ends up losing where they could be benefiting greatly.

While academics write explanations of, and justifications for, works of art, the broader public sees an opaque group of art works which they can easily turn away from. For the unengaged viewer of art, in many cases the result has been work which was difficult to digest, supported by "critical writing [that] has all too often become bad writing." The journalistic critic should instead question and shed light on the work as much as the reader, be they art specialist or outsider, in a way which is at once intelligent and accessible, as their job demands. The critic must interrogate the work in order to show its deeper layers of meaning. In this light, "Criticism must strive to be as resonant as the art it interprets, but without being abstruse or condescending."

While trying to balance the editorial requirements, the to and fro of the art world, the level of education (or knowledge of the art world) of the reader and their own views, the journalistic critic is in the same position as many other reporters of current events. These journalists and newspapers have been transformed from ostensibly serious conveyors of the news of the day to a more entertaining, less challenging version of the same events, often called ‘infotainment’. Just as international affairs of state take a back seat to political trysts, the art world has been turned into a celebration of personality as much as the work of art, and in some cases more so. Although this is potentially a great loss to the works of art, it could be used in the hands of the art journalist as a way to bring the reader into the work in order to discuss the substance of the work, instead of a cover for the lack of substance within the criticism.

The influx of fashion, and of the fashionable in general, is not itself a cause for a lack of critical investigation. The same sense of fashionable criticism, criticism which focuses more on the fashion of art than the substance, which can be criticized today, has been present since the beginning of critical journalism.

The criticism of John Ruskin, made over 150 years ago, can still be made today: "[Journalistic critics’] writings are not the guide, but the expression of public opinion. A writer for a newspaper naturally and necessarily endeavors to meet, as nearly as he can, the feelings of the majority of his readers; his bread depends on his doing so." The attempt to stay abreast of the public opinion, as opposed to leading or lending insight into those opinions, inevitably produces mediocre writing at best. At the same time Ruskin’s comments must be taken as criticism of the potential flaws of journalistic criticism and not its inherent nature. If the critical work is to have any substance it must meet the work on equal footing.

Ernest But what of criticism outside creation? I have a foolish habit of reading periodicals, and it seems to me that most modern criticism is perfectly valueless.

Gilbert: So is most modern creative work also. Mediocrity weighing mediocrity in the balance, and incompetence applauding its brother— that is the spectacle which the artistic activity of England affords us from time to time. As a rule, the critics— I speak, of course, of the higher class, of those in fact who write for the sixpenny papers— are far more cultured than the people whose work they are called upon to review. This is, indeed, only what one would expect, for criticism demands infinitely more cultivation than creation does.


While the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not without their share of bland coverage of the art of their time, one need only look to first Denis Diderot’s and later Charles Baudelaire’s salon coverage to find a journalistic criticism which penetrates as it enlightens, enlivening both the work and the reader and potential viewer of the work. Writing for the "Correspondance litteraire", Diderot eventually wrote critiques of nine Salons between 1759 and 1781. In those essays, written largely for a foreign audience without first-hand access to the work, Diderot developed a style based on close description and analysis of the works he saw as important, using clear and opinionated prose. Diderot attempts to create an experience similar, or parallel to, the experience of the work, thus giving the reader an access to the work he or she might otherwise not have, even if they were to see the Salon in person. His directness and enthusiasm in the Salon of 1763 gives a clear example of both the insight and accessibility of his writing:

There are several small paintings by Chardin... Nearly all represent fruit and the accessories of a meal. They are nature itself; the objects seem to come forward from the canvas and have a look of reality which deceives the eye... When I look at other artist’s paintings I feel I need to make myself a new pair of eyes; to see Chardin’s I only need to keep those which nature gave me and use them well... For the porcelain vase is truly porcelain; those olives are really separated from the eye by the water in which they float...And I ought to tell you that this artist possesses excellent common sense and discusses his art marvelously well...To hell with Apelle’s famous Curtain and with Zeuxis Grapes! It is not difficult to fool an impatient artist, and animals make bad critics of painting...But Chardin can deceive you and me whenever he wishes.

In his narrative, Diderot takes the reader from the first experience of the work, seeing it from a distance within the larger room, and brings us closer and closer to the work, penetrating ever more the materiality of the painting until he finally reaches the artist himself. While his arrival at the artist may seem beside point, it is more so exactly the point. By beginning with the larger element, the room, and then moving inward until he arrives at Chardin himself, he reveals for the reader that this phenomenon called art is in fact human and altogether important and consequential.

At the beginning of Modernism it was Baudelaire who stated what the task of the modern critic would be. He wrote that the critic should "write from an exclusive point of view, but a point of view that opens up the widest horizons...I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is both amusing and poetic: not cold, mathematical criticism..." It is an idea that applies to the journalistic critic more than the academic or specialized critic. With the criticism of Baudelaire, the work of the critic was given a new level of self awareness and with it a broader freedom, and an equally broader responsibility. In his Salon of 1846, he speaks not only of the work but more so of general ideas of criticism and painting. In his writing the sense that he is a poet as well as a critic is never distant. While his comment that "the best account of a picture may well be a sonnet or an elegy" may be an exaggeration, it is his ability to penetrate the visual through the poetic and analytic, simultaneously, that have given to his writings the transcendence they have.

As a result of the critical consciousness brought about by the writings of Baudelaire, the critic was no longer seen as the parasite many of the Salon artists of Diderot’s time thought the critic to be. Through Baudelaire’s writings on Delacroix, Proudhon’s and Champfleury’s writing on Courbet, Zola’s writing on Manet, among many other examples, artists saw themselves explained and defended by the critics to a potentially hostile, misunderstanding public. Often this was done in a way that not only spoke of the work critically, but also elevated the work and the whole enterprise of criticism. At the end of the nineteenth century no one would make clear the possibilities of criticism better than Oscar Wilde.

For Wilde, the critic need not be a servant of the art discussed. Instead, "to the critic the work of art is simply a suggestion for a new work of his own." His conception of the critic not as a simple translator of works of art but also as the creator of works of art (he titled his essay of 1890 "The Critic as Artist"), transforms the critical possibility and establishes a new relationship between the artist and the critic.

[Criticism] treats the work of art simply as a starting point for a new creation. It does not confine discovering the real intention of the artist and accepting that as final. And in this it is right, for the meaning of any beautiful created thing is, at least, as much in the soul of him who looks at it, as it is in his soul who wrought it.

While his work "The Critic as Artist" is more a treatise on criticism than the play it purports to be, his humorous, elegant prose style demonstrates exactly what strength criticism can have as an autonomous and creative art. At the same time, he demands just that of the critic.

Since the inception of modernism, ‘new art’ has very often been received with hostility, disgust or indifference. In light of this ambivalence the journalistic critic has often been the one to translate the new language to an ever more distant public. "In the best of circumstances, the critic serves as a kind of aesthetic mentor, introducing an audience to challenging, little-known, or obscure works or offering insights that might make work more accessible, engaging, profound, or relevant." The newspaper critic is the potential first link between difficult to read art and a potentially interested viewer. It is the writer’s opinion that can arouse interest or disdain and which creates a level of interest outside the insulated art world. The newspaper critic is for many the first point of contact with art works which might otherwise go completely unnoticed by all but an initiated few.

In speaking of journalistic criticism, The New York Times is a logical place to focus for at least two reasons. The first is due to its being situated in the city which gave birth to the first prominent and original artistic movement in the United States. The second is its being one of the most important daily newspapers in the country, with a significant art department.

From its beginnings to the present, the relationship of the public to the currents of modern and contemporary art has evolved and with it the relationship of the journalistic critics to the work and to the public they write for. To attempt to understand the nature of that evolution, it will be helpful to look at two periods in the history of the Times. I begin with the moment when the New York school was sufficiently established for New York to be recognized as the center of the international avant garde in the United States as well as Europe (its competition for the leadership of the Avant garde). Then I compare that with the present situation.

In the beginning of the gallery season of 1959, John Canaday began work as the chief critic for the Times. Throughout his journalistic criticism one senses the tone of a man somewhat disgusted with the excesses of his day, and who seemed to go in direct opposition to all that was new and in artistic vogue at the time. He was particularly critical of the New York School, by then triumphant, and with its champions on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in the institutions of power and the academy.

Canaday’s stay with the Times was decisively marked by his first column in September 1959, in which he harshly criticized abstract expressionism and its supporters — the critics, collectors, curators and educators who failed to see through what he considered to be the hoax of that school of painting. While claiming to appreciate certain painters of the New York School, he generally regarded them as competent at best and charlatans more often than not. "(W)e have managed to create the impression that all abstract art per se must be given the breaks on the probability that there is more there than meets the eye," he wrote, "while all other art per se must be regarded with suspicion on the probability that it isn’t as good as it looks." (9/6/59) He goes on to explain that the cause of this blindness on the part of the viewers and critics comes from a sort of historical baggage left over from the critical errors of the nineteenth century.

We suffer, actually, from a kind of mass guilt complex. Because Delacroix was spurned by the Academy until he was old and sick, because Courbet had to build his own exhibition hall in 1855 to get a showing for pictures that are now in the Louvre, because Manet was laughed at, because Cézanne worked in obscurity, because Van Gogh sold only one picture during his lifetime, because Gauguin died in poverty and alone, because nineteenth-century critics and teachers and art officials seemed determined to annihilate every painter of genius — because of all this we have tried to atone to a current generation of pretenders to martyrdom. Somewhere at the basis of their thinking, and the thinking of several generations of college students who have taken the art appreciation course, is the premise that wild unintelligibility alone places a contemporary artist in line with great men who were misunderstood by their contemporaries. (9/6/59)

He concludes his first column with a resounding condemnation of the contemporary scene:

In the meanwhile, critics and educators have been hoist with their own petard, sold down the river. We have been had. In the most wonderful and terrible time of history, the abstract expressionists have responded with the narrowest and most lopsided art on record. Never before have painters found so little in so much. (9/6/59)

Despite his general dismissal of all things abstract expressionist, he does occasionally offer surprising insights, such as his prediction that Philip Guston "will turn toward a more generally communicative way of painting…His problem is the problem of abstract expressionism in general — what next, if this is the ultimate?" (1/3/60) This having been written over a decade before Guston turned to a figurative and symbolic mode of painting, rejected by critics and his peers.

Canaday continued his rejection of what he called third rate charlatans throughout his tenure with the Times, using the harshest and most colorful language in his attacks upon them. In 1965 he wrote of Robert Motherwell, for example, that he

has the school’s basic superficiality, working from the premise, but not admitting, that painting today can be nothing better than a demonstration of the laying on of paint. But he has none of the flair and dash that makes, for instance, de Koonings laying-on an acceptable end in itself and even, in its limited way, expressive...(Motherwell’s paintings are) some of the most flatulent acreage in the history of large-scale painting. (10/17/65)

While at times he made substantive complaints on his part, often he offered a wholesale attack on a whole school of painting he had no appreciation of. This rejection could eventually prove to be his historic merit, as the defenders of the lately rediscovered masters such as Bouguereau and Rockwell discovered.

Within a year and a half he was attacked in a letter sent to the Times and signed by 50 of the country’s leading figures including William Barrett, John Cage, Stuart Davis, Adolph Gottleib, Hans Hoffman, Kenneth Koch, Willem DeKooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Fairfield Porter, Robert Rosenblum, Irving Sandler, David Smith and Meyer Shapiro, among others. After listing a number of places where he had insulted the artists, curators, collectors and critics in favor of abstract expressionism (some cited above), they explained that:

Mr. Canaday is entitled, of course, to the freedom of his opinions regarding works of art. We submit however, that his terminology of insults is scarcely adequate to describe emerging art works and tendencies, and we scorn this waging of a polemical campaign under the guise of topical reporting.

If Mr. Canaday has a political or social or esthetic "position" or philosophy, let him state what it is and openly promote his aims. Every style and every movement in art history contains examples of work by imitative or uninterested artists. To keep referring to these in order to impugn the whole, instead of attempting to deal seriously with the work of the movement, is the activity not of a critic but of an agitator. (2/26/61)

The letter seems to be of central interest to the whole of the topic of journalistic art criticism. It is apparent that Canaday saw it as crucial to his place as a critic, naming his first book "Embattled Critic" and featuring the letter and over 30 responses to it in the epilogue of that book and referring to it in the second collection of his criticism (as well as mentioning that of the 600 letters that came in 550 supported him, "not all of these, however, for the right reasons") .

On the other hand, the letter is also of interest because it is not by ignorant people but some of the most established and "advanced" New York artists, academics and critics of the day. The need to respond to the criticism makes apparent that to these people something important took place by the publication of the writing. If, conversely, they had seen it as unimportant and boorish (as well they could have) there would have been no need to respond to it at all. But the fact is that despite the critical mass surrounding the New York School by 1960, The New York Times never ceased to be centrally important to artists and the art world in general, as it still is to this day. The reasons for this are apparent. As noted, the Times represents the first contact with a largely uninitiated audience to the work of avant garde artists. Their representation in the Times is of utmost importance to their reputation and visibility.

Stepping back a bit, I want to point out the unique place the New York Times holds within the current situation, which goes back at least to the Canaday period. Although it is not my purpose to focus on economics, it is important to take into account that New York has been, at least since mid century, the center of global capital, and the Times is in many ways the voice of the power which capital represents. Its headlines influence the headlines of the rest of the country’s papers and are cited around the world as definitive source material. The stamp of approval from the Times represents an almost transcendent legitimacy. It is this reality to which these artists and critics were responding. In relationship to the art world this is significant when we realize that a single review from the New York Times can sell out a gallery show, and, for example in the theater, a negative review can close down a show after only one night.

In this sense, John Canaday has an interesting place in the history of the New York School and contemporary art. Modernist art has always had an adversarial relationship to the public, especially in the case of Dada and Surrealism. That attitude was essential to its avant garde character. Without it, the artist falls into the category which Greenberg refers to in his essay on Avant garde and Kitsch". Tacitly accepting his own adversarial role, Canaday goes so far as to say that "critics should not know artists and artists should not know critics" (5/25/61). What is surprising is the reaction of the avant garde. It reacted with indignation, rather than mockery as might be expected, which seems contrary to the basic nature of the avant-garde and demonstrates the beginning of a shift in the avant-garde’s concept of itself. With the ‘triumph of the New York school’ the avant garde idea of itself as outsider and misunderstood genius shifted to one of a sense of entitlement and deservedly rewarded master. Canaday stands on the precipice of that change. He is in many senses a holdout from the former time, hearkening back to the nineteenth century academic critics. Although apparently unaware of it, his counterparts do not seem to be the champions of the early modernists, but instead those same "critics and teachers and art officials ... determined to annihilate every painter of genius." Conversely, the next generation of Times critics clearly reflects the opposite school of thought.

Ernest : ...what are the qualities that should characterize the true critic?

Gilbert: What would you say they were?

Ernest : Well, I should say the critic should above all be fair.

Gilbert: Ah! Not fair. A critic cannot be fair in the ordinary sense of the word...The man who sees both sides of the question sees nothing at all. Art is passion...

Ernest : The true critic will be rational, at any rate, will he not?

Gilbert: Rational? There are two ways of disliking art, Ernest. One is to dislike it. The other to like it rationally.

Since Canaday’s retirement there have been a number of other critics working at the Times. In the present chief critic of the Times we see a full realization of the difference discussed above.

While Canaday’s first collection of his critical activity, Embattled Critic (1962) was almost exclusively concerned with his adversarial relationship to the art world, the current chief critic of the Times, Michael Kimmelman, published his first book on a similar topic but with an entirely different theme. Kimmelman’s 1998 book, entitled Portraits: Talking with artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and elsewhere, is a pleasant chat and stroll with a number of artists he admires. The talks are friendly, pleasant conversations with these ostensible masters, They are almost all cheerful and flattering of the artist.

Kimmelman’s criticism is conversational in an informal way, rarely reaching the levels of vitriol so often seen in Canaday’s writing. Where Canaday seemed to dislike much of what he saw, one wonders if Kimmelman strongly dislikes anything he sees. In his recent Sunday Times magazine article on Matthew Barney he was almost shockingly uncritical of the man he called "the most crucial artist of his generation." The resulting portrait was only slightly more flattering than Baudelaire’s portrait of Delacroix, with revealing differences. In Kimmelman’s case, it is apparent that he was happy to make the sacrifice of walking through the cold desert in order to be around so great an artist. Discussing Barney’s work and ideas of Matthew, a friendly Kimmelman assures us there are many ideas in the work, but there is no need to get to them right now.

Those ideas are nearly impossible to explain simply, and the tendency when talking about Barney is to get lost in the minutiae of his art. The work can seem ingeniously complicated or nonsensical, depending on one’s inclination. Suffice it to say that it is a mix of autobiography, history and private symbolism and it has involved him doing various death-defying acts and wearing elaborate makeup and prostheses.

He describes the man behind the art as "of medium height, with light blue eyes and a clean, open all-American face, Barney has an easy charm. He laughs readily; he is honest, smart, intense just underneath the surface, charismatic in a soft spoken way and not the least ironic. His looks are changeable."

This kind of flattery in print is usually reserved for the dead or the nearly so. When Baudelaire wrote about Delacroix, the Romantic painter was in fact deceased. Moreover, Baudelaire used his eulogy to give insight into the artist, the work and the ideas behind it.

But doubtless, Sir, you will be asking what is this strange, mysterious quality which Delacroix...has interpreted better than anyone else. It is the invisible, the impalpable, the dream, the nerves the soul; and this he has done — allow me please to emphasize this point — with no other means than colour and contour.

The differences and similarities between Kimmelman’s essay on Barney and Baudelaire’s essay on Delacroix suggest some important elements and requirements for the journalistic critic. Kimmelman’s narrative content and use of engaging and clear prose brings the reader ‘in’ and generates immediate empathy for and interest in Barney. Kimmelman makes us care about what happened to him and why he did it. In that way we begin to care more about Barney than his art. In a similar vein, Diderot mentions that Chardin was an artist who "possesses excellent common sense and discusses his art marvelously well"; Baudelaire refers to Delacroix as a possessing of "a sureness, a marvelous ease of manner, combined with a politeness which, like a prism, admitted every nuance" For the uninitiated, these personal anecdotes generate a human interest in the otherwise intimidating work of art. It is precisely the humanness of both the critic and the artist which creates an opening for the casual reader. Once we feel a connection to the subject we become more open to the difficult world the work represents. It is this next step, in which the critic takes us from the artist’s personality to an in-depth analysis of the work, that Kimmelman leaves out.

The lack of this kind of critical investigation in Kimmelman’s criticism reflects a hollow cheerleading, doing little more than create a cult of personality around an artist whose work is perhaps "crucial" and at the same time difficult to understand (at least for some). Kimmelman’s willingness to reduce what analysis of the work he makes to simple and empty remarks reflects a larger trend among journalistic art critics to set aside any serious introspective and intellectual attitude toward art. Kimmelman’s is little more than a well written piece of flattery, while giving no substance to the claim of Barney’s importance.

The populism implied by this cult of personality, in the hands of Baudelaire or Kimmelman, seems to be one of the manifold possibilities for the journalistic critic. In the attempt to reach to a larger audience, it would seem this populist approach could be decisive to bring about a larger discussion of the work. Despite Wilde’s admonition that "a critic should be taught to criticize a work of art without any reference to the personality of the author," this seems to be one of the most readily available tools for a critic addressing a broad public.

In an article on Norman Rockwell, Kimmelman takes a different tack. The article is friendly and folksy, like Rockwell’s work, but again refrains from any of the critical methods one would bring to bear on another artist. It seems that instead of appraising the artwork critically there is a fear of falling into the trap of being retrograde. While major critics around the country extol the virtues of Rockwell, there is a sense that there is something really hip about this newfound enthusiasm. In this light it seems Kimmelman is afraid that a serious analysis might leave him on the side of the passé, that is those who once thought of Rockwell as old fashioned and out of step with the latest advances. An impartial and passionate investigation of the work of Rockwell could easily cause Kimmelman to come to a less than flattering conclusion about the work and, perhaps more crucially, of the critical situation that produced the artist’s ‘renaissance.’ While it is altogether possible that he sincerely agrees with the current trend, he chooses to avoid serious investigation. Instead he notes that Rockwell "is a good artist, on his own terms, every artist being good on some terms or other...Rockwell’s terms involved squeaky-clean pleasure, which, more than anything else made sophisticated art critics and art historians cringe." Here he aligns himself with both the current wave of criticism, a sort of neo-populism, and with Canaday’s point of being distanced from the "sophisticated" critics and historians which Canaday criticized.

Kimmelman has taken the safest road by standing somewhat distant from and above the current neo-populists and outsiders to the art world, while simultaneously joining their ranks. He is at once a sophisticate and a lay viewer, both an insider and an outsider. The inherent paradox in this position is made apparent not only by its impossibility, but by the emptiness of the writing that results from it.

The wish to be "in the know" produces bland approval of all things ‘in.’ The critical distance required by the critic is thus set aside for fashion. The classic critical decision, "This is trash!", made famous throughout early modernism, is absent, leaving the lay viewer in the precarious position of being intimidated or bored by work which may be good, mediocre or just plain bad — a decision which they are unsure of making.

While many artists have thrown aside the image of the misunderstood modernist genius for a post-Warhol type of celebrity, the critics have also taken their place within the ranks of artworld personalities and stars. Clearly the role of the critic as antagonist and adversary, railing conservatively against "the new," is hardly interesting or beneficial to either public or art. But neither is the role of critic as cheerleader of any genuine use. On one side of these cheerleaders can be found what Michael Kimmelman refers to as "far too many critics who are held hostage by fashion—whether it’s political fashion, intellectual fashion, esthetic fashion, or a combination of all three." On the other side is what Robert Hughes refers to as "a different kind of philistinism, a philistinism of total acceptance."

The current mode of criticism, taken in light of the overwhelming quantity and variety of work being made, is to separate the good from the bad not through the derisive commentaries so favored by Canaday but rather by signaling quality through the selection of work considered by the critic. Except in the case of the already recognized, where the work may or may not receive a stamp of approval, the implication is that what is discussed is of some quality while the rest is questionable at best.

Based on the current artistic situation— abundant, varied and expansive— the need to discern seems more critical than ever. While the criticism of John Canaday, viewed from the distance of several decades, seems stale, dated and nearsighted, it is nonetheless refreshing to read such anger directed against a group of works which regarded itself automatically radical, formally as well as intellectually, but which was often unable to look at itself critically. At the same time, while Canaday scrutinized the whole of what he saw, applauding figurative work at a time when it was unpopular and ridiculing currently fashionable work, his criticism of the work is often shallow and without insight. His general critique of the euphoria and self-satisfaction of the moment seems well founded and in many ways historically vindicated, but his analyses of individual works end up offering little for the viewer beyond the sense of distaste he obviously had for the work as a whole. If there is a historical transcendence in his criticism, it comes only from the fact that he stood against the tide, seemingly alone.

Conversely, while Kimmelman occasionally offers intelligent commentary on the work he looks at, there is a lack of true insight or original thinking in relation to it. He seems to have an intimate relationship to the artworld he covers, but we, the readers, do not benefit from it.

These problems bring up the general question of the function of journalistic criticism. In view of the potentially broad public for this criticism, one would think that the critic could take an understanding of the work as well as the individual and the world which produced it (as well as the viewer of the work and the reader of the criticism), thus creating intellectual and emotional excitement in the reader searching for topical documentation of contemporary events.

While it is always easy, and often all too fashionable, to use the lights of the to demonstrate the shadows of the present, the current batch of nationally prominent journalistic critics could stand to learn from their predecessors. This is not because the criticism of Baudelaire, Diderot and Wilde would be appropriate in the contemporary art world, but precisely because it would not be. Instead, today’s critics must reinvent their field and make it applicable to today’s needs.

It was Diderot who first brought the reader to the experience of viewing the art, thus making it accessible to those who could not actually see the work; Baudelaire brought poetry to that critical effort, to make the endeavor autonomous. The predicament of the current journalistic critics to bring that poetry and immediacy to a public that is continually inundated with images, and which sees little use for art or criticism.

Ernest : ...Well, I think I have put all my questions to you. And now I must admit...

Gilbert : Ah! Don’t say that you agree with me. When people agree with me I always feel that I must be wrong.

Ernest : In that case I certainly won’t tell you whether I agree with you or not. But I will put another question. You have explained to me that criticism is a creative art. What future has it?

Gilbert : It is to criticism that future belongs.

Over a hundred years ago Oscar Wilde, seeing this chasm between art producer and public, wrote that "there was never a time when criticism was more needed than now." It would seem that situation has gotten more urgent precisely because it is the critic who "will always be showing us the work of art in some new relation to our age. He will always be reminding us that great works of art are living things..." The journalistic critic’s task seems in many respects to be nearly impossible, as Michael Brenson wrote, "but I also know that the impossibility of journalistic criticism is proof of its necessity."


Wilde, Oscar, The artist as Critic, Richard Ellman, ed.; Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1982, pg. 349 "Its enormous influence is taken for granted, particularly among artists, curators, and dealers in New York, yet general discussions about it rarely take place, and within the academic world only the most generous scholars treat it with respect. It may be the most accessible and the most remote, the most wooed and the most spurned field of criticism."

Brenson, Michael. "Resisting the Dangerous Journey: The Crisis of Journalistic Criticism", The Crisis of Criticism, Ed. Maurice Berger. New York, The New Press, 1998, pg. 1o4

Berger, Maurice "Introduction: The Crisis of Criticism", in The crisis of criticism, Ed. Maurice Berger (New York, The New Press, 1998, pg. 101. Pg. 9 "Many theorists reject coherence as a matter of principle. Homi Baba, for example, argues that incoherence of certain theoretical texts can allow them to better represent the complexity of such difficult and involved concepts as power, identity, and paradox". Ibid., pg. 10

Ruskin, John, from the introduction to Modern Painters, 1844, quoted in, Neoclassicism and Romanticism, Sources and documents vol. 2. Ed. Eitner, L., Englewood, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1970,. Pg. 164

Wilde, Oscar, op cit., pg. 358

Diderot, Denis, "Salon of 1763" in Neoclassicism and Romanticism, 1750-1850, sources and documents, vol. 1, Ed. Eitner, L., Englewood, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1970, pg. 58 Ibid., pg. 155

Baudelaire, Charles Neoclassicism and Romanticism, 1750-1850, sources and documents, vol. 2, Ed. Eitner, L., Englewood, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1970, pg. 58 Pg. 155,

Wilde, Oscar, op. cit., pg. 369 Ibid., pg. 367 Berger, Maurice. Op. Cit. Pg. 8 Canaday, John, Embattled Critic, New York, Noonday Press, 1962, pg. 32 Ibid., pg. 33 Ibid., pg. 33 Ibid., pg. 140

Canaday, John, Culture Gulch, New York, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1969, pg. 83

Canaday, John, Embattled Critic, op. cit., pp. 219-223 Ibid., pg. 219 Canaday, John, Embattled Critic, op cit. Pg. 5

Wilde, Oscar. Op cit., pg. 392

Kimmelman, Michael "The Importance of Matthew Barney", New York Times Magazine, 10 Oct. 1999, pg. 64 Ibid., pg. 66

Baudelaire, Charles. "The life and work of Eugene Delacroix" in The painter of modern life and other essays, London, Phaidon Press Limited, 1995, pg. 44 Ibid., pg. 57

Wilde, Oscar. op cit., pg. 42

Kimmelman, Michael. "Renaissance for a ŒLightweight¹." New York Times, 7 Nov. 1999, Arts and Leisure section, part 2, pg. 1

Madoff, Steven Henry. "The critics: "Clarity and distance that does not exclude love." Artnews, Sept. 1992, pg. 87

Jenkins, Nicholas. "The critics: "Clarity and distance that does not exclude love." Artnews, Sept. 1992, pg. 86

Wilde, Oscar. Op. cit. pp. 401-402 Ibid., pg. 403

Wilde, Oscar, op. cit. Pg. 374

Brenson, Michael. "Resisting the Dangerous Journey: The Crisis of Journalistic Criticism", The Crisis of Criticism, Ed. Maurice Berger. New York, The New Press, 1998, pg. 109