In case you missed it, we’re pulling today’s Help Desk from our archives! Submit your question about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, or selling art using our anonymous submission form: http://bit.ly/132VchD. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving. Today’s article was originally published on March 18, 2013.
An art critic who writes for a local newspaper recently approached me. He wants to review a recent show I installed at a local gallery. He is essentially asking me to provide him with my thoughts on my work and, after reading several of his articles, it seems as if he will just quote me at length rather than provide an actual review of my work. On one hand this appears to be an opportunity to put forth some of my own ideas (however small), but on the other it seems it will be a watered-down version of a review that serves more to fill a column than actually respond critically to a body of work. Should I indulge him in my eagerness to gain press attention or decline in hopes of a future proposal from a more attentive critic?
I applaud your sincerity and rectitude, but in this case they are somewhat misdirected. Understandably, you’d like your show to be reviewed by someone who will take the time to get to know the work and write up his or her own analysis and interpretation. Knowing that you’re not going to get it is a bit discouraging, but one could easily grow old and die while waiting for a “more attentive critic.” I don’t want you to second-guess your values but when opportunity knocks, open the damn door.
What you’ve got to keep in mind is that your own integrity is not at stake. The best you can do is work hard to make something you believe in. You’ve made the art and sent it out into the world with some background information to accompany it on its way. You’re not responsible for what other people do with that information. A local journalist who lacks imagination or initiative is not under your control.
Francesco Vezzoli. Installation view of Olga Forever! The Olga Picasso Family Album at Almine Rech Gallery.
When you’re in a quandary, sometimes it helps to do some thought experiments. Imagine a critic who always pans the work that she reviews. Would you give her the same information about your show, knowing that she might use it to underscore her various arguments about how and why your work sucks? I suspect you would, because you’d at least have the consolation that she was spending time with the work and paying attention. Now let’s try another scenario: Would it make a difference to you if the reason this critic quotes at length from the artist is because he doesn’t trust his own evaluation of artwork? What if, instead of being lazy (and perhaps somewhat disingenuous), he is simply insecure and fearful? And lastly, even though he has a record of quoting at length, can you be absolutely sure he will do the same in this instance? People do change, and we can hope that perhaps he will start with you.
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