Home Arts The Softer Side of an Elitist Arts Snob

The Softer Side of an Elitist Arts Snob

by Archives September 9, 2008

OTTAWA (CUP) — The relationship between the artist and the critic is a tenuous one.
On the one hand, artists and critics are brought together by their passion and appreciation of art. They attend the same shows, get drunk at the same bars and wear the same ironic T-shirts. On the other hand, critics must do their readers justice and deliver earnestly in their reviews, even if their opinion is a negative one. Artists – who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into their work – are at the mercy of the critics who may publicly humiliate them with bad press. Their careers may not be over, but a bad review by a respected well-known critic has the power to taint an artist’s reputation and even impact how much money they make.
It’s an unfortunate scenario. I have interviewed plenty of artists who have spoken harshly of those who gave them negative reviews. Sometimes, their issues are warranted; other times, I secretly agreed with the review. But my opinion is relative, and worth as much as anyone else’s. The appreciation and interpretation of art, much like art itself, is a fairly subjective matter.
This is not to deny the guidelines that pave the path in the creation of art – these guidelines are important tools for artists to learn so they can experiment and create new works. But when critics critique, their interpretation and appreciation for a piece will all depend on their life experience, background, education, culture, or even how they felt that day.
Opinions can clash. Many artists may be dismissed until years after their death. Many artists will not find notoriety in their own country, but become cult favourites in Japan for example. To try to qualify art would be taking a step back into Modernity.
If art is subjective, and so are the opinions of art critics, what is the point? Why should critics like those at Pitchfork, who can make or break an aspiring indie act’s career, wield so much power, especially when they can make an artist’s career more difficult than it already is?
There is a place and purpose for arts criticism, despite its flaws. It allows for public discourse about art interpretation, without which, people would never be stimulated to think critically about art. Public opinion is important because it furthers our collective and individual understandings behind a topic. Even if opinions clash, we can all weigh in and come to our own conclusions. The Internet has been particularly good for facilitating this communication, and it gives anyone, regardless of their credentials, the chance to critique anything and everything, from an opera recital to a ghetto YouTube video.
Secondly, art reviews give people who don’t have the time to absorb every piece of artwork a chance to filter out stuff they may not like, and the opportunity to find something new. Granted, people will become attracted to critics who match their tastes, and this is both good and bad. On the one hand, it helps people find new exciting stuff. On the other, sticking to the same sources can make people complacent and prevent them from exploring new artistic territory.
Critics deliver their finest not when they make sarcastic, biting insults – even though they might think they’re absolutely hilarious – but rather, when they introduce readers to something new and spectacular.
While being an artist or having studied the art form is great experience under the belt, by no means is it necessary. All they need is a talent for writing in an enthusiastic, informative, and entertaining style, one that grabs readers by the brim and throws them into something they’ve never experienced.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment