uk writer slams us art writing
Post #249 • April 2, 2004, 11:18 AM • 20 Comments
Turn to the arts sections and you will find a divergence so extremeintone and content that you will rub your eyes and wonder whether [the ToryTelegraph and the New York Times]are discussing thesame subject.Every seriousBritish newspaper carries two, three or more pages of arts commentary andcriticism which report, reflect and review a razzle of activity in a style which may be ponderous, or provocative, or purely piss-taking.
No American newspaper dares venture past the first of these p's. The tone in US arts coverageisuniformly respectful, uninquiring,inherently supportive. When the bossof Covent Garden takes an early bath,British papers roll out weeks of investigation, gossip and analysis. Whenthe head of the Met decides (or is obliged) to step down, as Joseph Volpe did some weeks ago, hedoes so in afriendly interview with the New York Times which does not onceinquirewhether Volpe quit because he's pushing 65 or becausehis box-office has gone dead since 9/11.
Londonis a newspaper town, with five serious dailies, four Sundaysand one evening paper which cover all openings and stirrings. ... Manhattan'sdiversity wassubsumed by consolidation. Onedaily after another was bought out or went under until, in the 1960s, New York,like most US cities, was left with just one paper to report the arts. This monopolyplaces anunhealthy burden on critics. If theirs is to be the only voice to pronounce on a new show or the fate of aninstitution, they are obliged to wear a mantle of responsibility that is antithetical to good journalism. A critic is licensed to get it wrong from time to time. Restrict that license and the reviews growsafe and solemn.An era of incorporation fostered a pontifical tone in American arts criticism.
The local art-criticism situation may not be as bad as I recently claimed; Elisa Turner at the Herald has been coming out weekly again, and Alfredo Triff at the New Times may have finally talked his editors into weekly coverage. Street is still playing with its format but it hasn't discounted an art column each week. But let's face it: me, Omar, Elisa, Alfredo, Carlos, Vivian - we sound like a bunch of high school teachers. Negative comments have become more rare than Condi Rice's smile. And part of the reason is that we have so little opportunity to speak. If we were all coming out in print every day, we'd be slapping some shows around. We'd be making bolder statements because we could retract them if need be soon after. Best of all, we'd be talking to each other on paper.
I have an idea: if I post a discussion board (on a non-Artblog.net-website) for short reviews and comments, limited to the people listed above and a few other smart cookies, would you guys participate?