In Robert Storr’s reflection of his life as an art critic, he compares the art critic to a bottom feeder in the hierarchy (or better-worded hegemony) of the art world. He writes this in his final column for frieze, “Ink Tank.” Notably, Storr enjoys acting as the columnist most. (I presume a reliable check in his mailbox only slightly influenced his choice of favorite publication.) At last, an art critic actually reflects on monetary value of his writing. He, rather we must pay our rent somehow.
What can I write? Partial to academic discourse, particularly the obscure field of philosophical aestheticism, I hardly believe that it is I who writes in first person now. Of course, I empathize. Even Carlo McCormick has divulged his insecurities about art writing gaining crumbs from the art world’s baguette.
The only art critic with a chance in this journalistic-find-a-hook-relate-it-to-the-celeberity-who-is-having-a-break-down-of-the-month world would be a writer for The New Yorker. Alas Peter Schjeldahl appears to prepare his chair for Adam Gopnik, in which he would sit well.
Moreover, in a 2004 interview Schjeldahl comments, “If people don’t want to read me, I starve…but writing things that people want to read is my bread and butter,” in response to art criticism outside of the History of Art realm. Schjeldahl has always made it clear that he’s not an Ivy League graduate. In no way does this diminish the amount of content that he has contributed to art theory, yet his response exposes a taboo truth about art criticism.
My friend who works at a PR firm as an office administrator drunkenly spit out that philosophy is a “stupid” concentration. She continued with the nihilistic argument that nothing can be derived from a bunch of academics arguing over a linguistic debate.
Have we finally let go of formalistic analysis? Have we accepted that social axioms are the only normative force? Is this okay?
Some people find the aforementioned questions rhetorical, implying that I need a new day job—quickly.
In general a career-bound writer knows that he or she may never earn a single paycheck, with which one could retire. Narrowing the field to art criticism nearly makes it implausible for one to live a day without constantly pitching, plotting and writing. However, the number of art blogs populating each day proves that the title “art critic” must be coveted. Considering the tremendous means (writing) to the pathetic end (payday), art critics financially bottom feed.
In the end, art critics have played an important part of history documenting art in general. Michelangelo’s architecture would be bulldozed if Vasari’s records disappeared. Duchamp used this to his advantage and became one of the most-recognized artists with a few works remaining in tact. Contemporary life feeds off explanations. Why should I purchase this? Now many would not find this a rhetorical question. There must be a link between commodity and consumer. That link exists in cerebral discourse often overlooked. We depend on normative laws to guide our daily lives, and how these laws are derived is lost in a murky sea of skepticism. Despite the bad press directed towards art criticism, it only affirms its niche in the art world.
If the art critic truly be a bottom feeder, then I happily feast on whatever grub grows or drops to the ground. Life on the bottom hardly differs from that on the top.