Monday 19 March 2007

The critic who collects

An article by Jen Graves posted on The Stranger has called forth a lot of debate across a network of interconnected visual arts blogs.

In the article, titled 'Critical Mess: the iffy dealings of Seattle's most widely published art critic', Graves follows up rumours that Seattle art critic Matthew Kangas has asked artists whose shows he has reviewed to give him a work. Nine artists went on the record for the article saying Kangas had requested works from them before or after writing a review.

The article takes the allegations and weaves them into a wider investigation of the propriety of critics asking artists to give them work (blatantly wrong) and critics collecting art at all (a question with considerably more nuance).

Opinions and positions range from 'critics should not collect what they write about' (Village Voice critic Jerry Saltz, for example, collects only junk shop paintings and ceramics) to 'critics might collect ethically' (Regina Hackett, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's art critic has her own rule: "She collects art by full-price purchase only, and doesn't sell anything. She talks with her editor when she fears she's written too much about an artist whose work she owns and is in danger of becoming the primary critic on the artist").

Edward Winkleman and Artworld Salon have both posted responses to the article, and the comment thread on Artworld Salon in particular is good reading.

It would be an interesting question to ask in New Zealand. Given the size of the New Zealand art world, people don't just do double duty - sometimes they're performing three or four roles: critic, curator, teacher, consultant, valuer, collector, spokesperson. And given what freelancers are paid, often they're doing this for peanuts. It's never going to be right to expect an artist to give you a work in return for a write-up. But when does the relationship become too cosy?

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