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Installation view of Loris Greaud, ‘The Unplayed Notes Museum’ at Dallas Contemporary (all photo courtesy Loris Gréaud / Gréaudstudio)

On January 17 a group of performers hired by French artist Loris Gréaud smashed nearly half of the artworks in his new exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. The stunt, staged during a members’ party, did little to change Dallas Observer Arts Editor Lauren Smart’s opinion of the show — in fact it echoed her own urge to destroy artworks she sharply critiqued for their “decorative hollowness.” Her review is funny, incisive, and very opinionated.

However, Gréaud does not consider opinions to be the sort of thing that should appear in art reviews. In a series of sexist Facebook messages sent to Smart — which she then published on the Dallas Observer‘s Mixmaster blog — the artist advised her to find “a boyfriend with at least 400 mg Anadrol a day,” and accused her of not having “the ability, the capacity, the culture, and the elegance to formulate such a simple, objective review.” (Anadrol is another name for the steroid Oxymetholone; Gréaud is advising Smart to find herself a buff boyfriend.)

Installation view of Loris Greaud, ‘The Unplayed Notes Museum’ at Dallas Contemporary

Irrespective of the merits of Gréaud’s work, and setting aside the many misogynist passages of his rants — for further outrage in that department, see Jezebel’s hilarious take on it — his frustrated desire for a “simple, objective review” is telling. Only an artist who is profoundly confused about the purpose of criticism, which is by its very nature complicated and subjective, could want reviews of his exhibitions to be simple and objective. Those types of reviews exist; they’re called press releases.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

27 replies on “A French Artist Demonstrates How Not to Handle Criticism”

  1. This is bad trendy art, covered in a trendy way. Duchamp broke new ground a hundred years ago. His clones are just shoveling dirt. Many artists including me, think this just isn’t relevant anymore.

    The history of western art went from realism, to abstraction. OK but that’s not the end of art. That is just a phase. Time to move on to the new art that goes beyond realism versus abstraction. I am one of the leaders of post-ism, that goes beyond any isms.

    Part of the vitality in art is the rebellion against the mainstream. To bring vitality back to art, we should oppose the salon art , that modern art has become

    http://tinyurl.com/38a5txu

    Conceptual art has a catch 22 to it. It can’t be evaluated. Thats’ why, many years ago, I made the conceptual art video called snake oil that opposes what conceptual art and modern art have become.

    Here’s why I think Modern art is neither modern nor art (or at least not very good art) anymore.
    1. Cold 2. Disjointed 3. Can’t communicate it’s message 4.Weird 5.Elitist 6. Technically poor if there is technique at all 7. Pompous and inflated, often takes up a room 8. Non functional, not useful, not integrated into life 9 No breadth or scope. From Five Doors to the Art Revolution, video #2.

    1. “I am one of the leaders of post-ism, that goes beyond any isms” is about as pompous and inflated as it gets.

      1. Post-ism is a good name for getting beyond what modern art has become. Call it a back to basics art if you want though it is more than that alone. Those that know modern art know that me or any one person could hardly even approach being pompous and inflated enough to compete on that level. This is a cause I’ve been talking about in my zine for 20 years.

    2. You bring up no criticism of post-modern art that has not already been brought up by countless people for decades. While we search for a way out of the “isms” it makes no sense to deny the isms the term art. The lame quote that everything in art has already been done is the skeptic’s lazy anger at their own pacifism.

      1. The main ways to move forward is 1. to get back to basics. Get back to painting and sculpture instead of this hybrid art that too often mixes bad painting with bad sculpture, go beyond the gallery museum system, and bring art to everyone through mass marketing of paintings – the last major art to be mass marketed (books, film, music), go beyond the great divide of abstraction versus realism – they both are valid, and get to a good art that has some connection with people again – the first object of an artist is to be understood. This and many more, that are connected with post-ism art, will help move art forward.

    3. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it ‘I-Understand-Duchamp Man’!

      Please tell us more things we didn’t realise in our first year of art college!

      1. The main ways to move forward is 1. to get back to basics. Get back to painting and sculpture instead of this hybrid art that too often mixes bad painting with bad sculpture, go beyond the gallery museum system, and bring art to everyone through mass marketing of paintings – the last major art to be mass marketed (books, film, music), go beyond the great divide of abstraction versus realism – they both are valid, and get to a good art that has some connection with people again – the first object of an artist is to be understood. This and many more (and a lot less smugness), that are connected with post-ism art, will help move art forward.

        1. Fair enough, anything that proposes to move forward by moving backwards sounds self-defeating, and what changes ‘art’ is probably more extrinsic than intrinsic, Duchamp’s point as far as I understand it was there was no art beyond the art world, but good luck with it, if it works for you, enough people like it and it does inflict any significant suffering on humanity, great.

          1. This goes beyond me. There are a lot of groups going ahead with art outside of the elite modern ar. Lowbrow art, Stuckism movment, amd my postism. Then too most artists are outside the gallery system:

            Modern art
            you’ve lost your way.
            I’d rather see
            a comic book,
            fashion drawings,
            or children’s art,
            an illustration,
            or anything but
            Modern art
            you’ve lost your way!

          2. Think it through. The Renaissance was back to basics and it was far from self defeating, same with Impressionists who got back to plein air painting, more basic than the studio mythology paintings.

            The history of western art went from realism, to abstraction. OK but that’s not the end of art. That is just a phase. Time to move on to the new art that goes beyond realism versus abstraction. To bring vitality back to art, we should oppose the salon art , that modern art has become

            http://tinyurl.com/38a5txu

    1. Brillant. I did not think of thsi…Perhpas. Lets see if he has a second set of statues back in Paris.

    2. Ryan Fellhauer, good comment. Which brings up a tough question – is good art a stunt? I don’t think so.

      Part of the vitality in art is the rebellion against the mainstream. To bring vitality back to art, we should oppose the salon art , that modern art has become

      http://tinyurl.com/38a5txu

      Look to lowbrow art, comic book art, Postism art movement, Stuckism, etc. for the vitality and rebellion that modern art has lost.

        1. I can’t agree with that. Some is – but it seldom lasts.

          Modern art
          you’ve lost your way.
          I’d rather see
          a comic book,
          fashion drawings,
          or children’s art,
          an illustration,
          or anything but
          Modern art
          you’ve lost your way!

  2. You guys just dont undestand. He’s French. Thats it. Perfectly normal reaction… How dare the creton americaine parle de nous.. I live in Montreal . Seems perfecly on the money.

  3. I’m trying to figure out what I think about this whole thing, but I agree with the fella above that it wouldn’t be farfetched to think of it as part of the artist’s work itself, especially because Greaud has expressed an interest in exploring media reception. That would explain why he would choose to do a one-time performance at a media preview anyway, where the audience is pretty dang small.

    Nevertheless, whatever he meant or didn’t mean to do has provoked some serious consideration about the role of criticism, what it means, who it’s for and how it functions—something art criticism truly needs right now. Greaud not only generated tons of media attention for him and his show, but I also speculate he provided a little follower boost for the art critic—journalists and artists alike can often only dream of this kind of viral power. I’m sure Greaud and Smart are both doing OK right now, the only victim (if we really need to identify one) might be the Dallas Contemporary.

    1. Of course the smashing was part of the show. Why else hire the smashers? This adds some interest. His behavior later dispels that.

      It’s so American to criticize the French… Ha hee ha ha.

  4. Not really a fan of the art or the review but I think anyone would have to take issues with the close of the review: “… After all, he knew he was going to destroy it. And what artist would do that?” There is a well documented precedent for destruction in art and for creating works destined to be destroyed. Think the DIAS artists, Heather Benning, Destructivism, sand mandalas, John Baldessari, etc. Am I missing the reviewers sarcasm here?

  5. Whether or not you like his art, I do think in this particular case
    Loris Gréaud has a point. Even though he expresses his point in a bit of
    a rude & possibly drunken, yet hilarious way (and in a second
    language nonetheless), it begs the question: Why did the Dallas Observer
    send such an inexperienced, “bored,” and apparently inept art critic to
    review the exhibit of a renowned artist who has had installations at
    Palais de Tokyo, solo exhibitions at the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou
    in Paris, and worked with the likes of David Lynch, Sonic Youth, and
    Charlotte Rampling? It makes no sense.

    Don’t we respect our artists enough here in Dallas to at least send
    someone with as equal or greater talent, experiences, &
    qualifications as the artist himself? When I read an art critique, I
    want to be educated and informed. Lauren Smart’s “review” sounds like
    just another temperamental adolescent girl b*tching about art not giving
    her as much instant gratification as her Twitter feed. There are no
    well-informed points, no cultural references, no merit.. just a chip on
    her shoulder directed at the most convenient scapegoat. It’s lazy
    writing at best, immature at its worst, and frankly she seems lost. It’s
    so poorly written & drenched in cliché, in fact, that I am almost
    positive Gréaud would have unleashed an equal amount of rage on a male
    reviewer had he written the same elementary rubbish as she.

    There is such a thing as a good bad review. Unfortunately, Smart misses the mark.

    Her “review,” in a sense is written from the same childish mindset
    that Gréaud, whether consciously or unconsciously, so accurately
    reflects back onto her with his emails. His emails, in the end, are a
    mirror to Lauren Smart’s own ignorance. Which makes me wonder; was this
    all part of his plan?

    The fact that Lauren Smart goes on to publicly slam him for his
    spelling errors that were sent in a private email in his second language
    is equally disheartening & disturbing. Do you speak a second
    language, Lauren Smart? Even worse, after her feelings are hurt by
    Gréaud’s email rant, she does what any hot-blooded working woman under
    duress should do, right? She plays the sexism card. Ah, yes. What a
    damsel in distress you are Ms. Smart, you poor thing! Golly gee! Gréaud,
    that evil, mean bastard, how dare he speak to you this way. I mean, you
    have a big college degree and a big job at a newspaper so you’ll show
    him. You’ll show him alright! LOL.

    What type of precedent is this setting for women in this country?
    That we can’t fight our own battles? That we have to air our dirty
    laundry and get the public to fight them for us? That any time we get a
    work email from someone that hurts our feelings and it’s a man, that we
    should pick out whatever we can in the writing that we can take out of
    context and call it sexism, and then make it public, with a sensational
    headline of course, so that the world can validate us and feel sorry for
    us for being such a victim? Gréaud’s emails said much more than, “go
    get laid,” but Lauren Smart doesn’t want you to know that. She wants to
    turn it around, make herself the victim, and be validated for simply
    being bad at her job. Sorry Smart, you may have fooled your friends and
    fellow bloggers of the world, but you don’t fool me. You’re an insult to
    the real female victims of the world. And that’s what this is about.

    Onwards and upwards. Lauren Smart is not the first fame whore there
    ever was (ie. Taylor Lianne Chandler, Jackie the infamous UVA student
    who cried rape, the list could go on and on), and she certainly won’t be
    the last, just as Loris Gréaud is not the first artist to retaliate
    against a bad review, and certainly won’t be the last. But I hope that
    people who read or publish this crap on the internet can at least try to
    stop taking everything at face value and do a little research before
    snapping to quick judgements based on a hyped-up headline and that good
    old adrenaline rush that comes from cyberbullying celebrities. Stop
    encouraging strong, intelligent, able-bodied women to act like victims
    for the sake of attention, validation, and retaliation. Stop condoning
    disgruntled journalist internet trolls who make private conversations
    public for a cheap shot at their own fifteen minutes of fame. Think
    first.

    In the end, while I can understand Gréaud’s emotional response to
    Lauren Smart’s haphazard, underwhelming, and largely unfounded dismissal
    of his life’s work, I agree that it may have been a lapse of judgement
    on his part to bother emailing her about it. Or was it? Because, in
    fact, that is exactly how I discovered him. So I’m happy 🙂

  6. I find this article about the piece helpful: http://www.wmagazine.com/culture/art-and-design/2015/01/loris-greaud-dallas-contemporary/photos/. I respect what Gréaud is doing and find the installation he created to be very ambitious and applaud the museum for supporting such a risky project. Apparently the critic didn’t get it. Oh well. Personally, I wouldn’t advocate for responding in the manner Gréaud did, even though it may work for this particular artist. I suspect most of us would benefit our audiences (and consequently ourselves) with a more elevated mode of discourse, especially when we disagree with someone who has the power of the pen (however unskillfully wielded).

  7. The first object of an artist is to be understood. Good art explains itself. The great artist doesn’t have to explain what he meant. Good art has all the answers in it. If this wasn’t crystal clear to you in the piece above, and it was not to me, then it was the artists fault, not ours. Time to oppose what modern art has become.

  8. Thanks everybody. Our bureau advised Duchamp on his hair-cut, Henry More to start with sculptures instead of photography, and Mr Greaud how to stage his show .
    In addition, you all can hire our art critics for reviewing. Most exposure you will get from the critical one’s. We can provide priceless Jezebel, like we did with Greaud, but we have some cheap bargains as well. And off the counter, any sort of anabolic, EPO, snuff or nightmare.

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