The Demise of the Art Critic
Prior to the in the late 19th century, before the emergence of modernism, when skill, technical prowess and accuracy were the factors used to determine how good a painting was, the role of the art critic was quite clearly defined because of the clearly defined factors and principles that were used to determine whether an artwork was good or not . Now that artists are producing such a wide variety of works that no longer conform to any sort of clearly defined or universally accepted standards, guidelines or conventions, the role and purpose of the art critic has come into question. Artistic trends and movements are coming and going quicker than ever and artists are constantly experimenting with new mediums and different techniques in order to achieve vastly different goals and results which has resulted in the task of properly critiquing most artworks almost impossible.
The aesthetics of an artwork continue to play a less and less important role in defining an artwork, especially when it comes to conceptual art, where the actual concept of the artwork is more important than the physical representation of the concept to the point where with some artworks the concept is the artwork and does not require a physical representation. As we tend to judge an artwork on it’s aesthetic attributes it becomes extremely hard to provide an accurate and objective critique when what we are viewing may not be the primary focus of the artwork. The fact that many artists are not aiming for an artwork that would be considered to be “good” complicates things even further.
The definition of a critic is someone who judges and evaluates which requires quantifiable and definable principles or guidelines to judge and evaluate against so if these principles and guidelines cease to exist, or become irrelevant, then the ability to judge or evaluate an artwork has to be questioned. I still call myself an art critic because that is what the other people who perform similar functions to myself call themselves, but I think that the term has become obsolete and should be replaced with something like art editorialist, art journalist, art reporter, art theorist or something else that accurately represents the more subjective and theoretical approach that most art writers take. I just hope that that people do not get discouraged from writing about art but instead alter their approach and embrace the exciting developments that are taking place in the art world.
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of http://www.artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.