Today, I’d like to talk about critics, the people who make a living writing about things you may or may not have already seen. Granted, I myself have thought of myself as a critic throughout my college years, but I focused on films and video games. Never in my lifetime did I consider art criticism a thing, and today, very little about that perception has changed.
Art criticism is a lot like music criticism – it attempts to set a standard of quality for a creative outlet that which is ultimately subjective and less tangible, which in my opinion contradicts the point of art. For me, the whole point of art is that everyone has a different idea of what they see, and what they think it means. For some, even a banal drawing of a house can hold some sort of philosophical meaning if one perceives it, and what others call a masterpiece can be perceived as meaningless by others. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is the true power and value of art, and I feel that’s what art critics miss.
Of course, this wouldn’t bother me so much if art critics weren’t so pretentious about it. The problem with art critics is that they make it their mission to tell you the meaning of a certain artwork in a way that makes you sound like a complete idiot for “not getting it” in the first place, and what they usually churn out sounds like the kind of claptrap that only reinforces the stereotype of a pretentious ivory tower intelligentsia that is hopelessly out of touch with the common man. In other words, they make a living spewing what one of my art lecturers would call “arty bollocks”, and yet when they do it it’s called a career, while if I tried that, I’d be a considered a loony.
Whatever they’re actually saying, the vast majority of art critics, in their attempt to try and sell an objective meaning for an artwork, are highly likely to be driving a bias steamroller when it comes to various forms of art. For instance, Banksy is still quite popular with art critics, even though, as I’ve mentioned before, he’s basically a hack. A lot of these critics only seem to like what’s new and shocking, while they’ve had a history of simultaneously dismissing newers forms of art.
In the early 20th century, critics such as Robert Coates would dismiss some of Jackson Pollock’s artworks as “mere unorganized explosions of random energy”, and yet decades later, his painting “No. 5, 1948” would end up being sold to a Mexican financier named David Martinez for $140 million, even though I doubt that the buyer or the critics had any idea what the artwork even means. Earlier still, in the 19th century, Impressionist painters were despised by the French Academy of Fine Arts because they were different to the more realistic style of art preferred by the establishment at the time. Now the works of the Impressionsits and the Post-Impressionists are now part of the art establishment.
To me, the art critics represent the art establishment, whom I see as little more than a bunch of clowns flailing mindlessly as they try to interpret the meaning of art. Is there any reason why we can’t simply like our pretty paintings for reasons that don’t involve pretentious drollery? If not, then why not? These are the kind of answers that art critics won’t answer, and that being said, I’d strongly recommend not trusting art critics. In fact, the next time I hear an art critic loudly espousing some vague idea of what you’re really looking at, I might have the right mind to ask that critic what he or she was even thinking of to begin with, or if any of that had anything to do with the artwork itself.