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The Trouble with Art Criticism: JJ Charlesworth, Adrian Searle, Melissa Gronlund, and Tom Morton—Moderated by Teresa Gleadowe

From The Contemporary State of Art Criticism

Part of a series of panels at ICA about, well, trouble (there’s a “trouble with painting,” one with curating, and so on), this panel ended up not exactly focusing on what so many people have described as a current crisis of criticism, but rather on contexts, forms, and questions. Gleadowe opened the talk with the hardest question: “What is criticism for?” Many of the responses were hesitant—it’s for feedback, it’s a space between theory and value judgments—but Frieze contributing editor Tom Morton’s answer was spot-on: criticism is “a history of attention to ideas.” The participants also got into the nitty-gritty details of the work of curating: what taste is (“something you have to get over,” Adrian Searle, the Guardian’s art critic); what professionalism looks like (Morton discussed his position as both a critic and curator); what the role of a critic is in the face of an all-encompassing art market; and what bad criticism looks like—“Bad critics are the ones who never develop a broad way of considering and interrogating what it is that they write” (JJ Charlesworth of ArtReview). Panels are oftentimes sites of dull agreement, but there was much contention here between writers whose work is quite different in form, outlets, and approach, and a great deal of attention was paid to the actual work of writing. I often regard reviews that do nothing but describe an exhibition—the what’s-there-shopping-list-style review—as vapid and worthless, but Searle’s assertion that “description can be judgment” has staying power when thinking about what criticism can offer.

February 13, 2015

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

Curated by

Orit Gat

About the curator

Orit Gat is a writer living in New York. She is an editor of art-agenda and contributing editor of The White Review.