In his final column for Frieze, writer, painter and star curator Robert Storr calls art writers (himself included) “bottom feeders,” and constructs an elaborate metaphor for writers as the “squid” of the art world — swimming in their own ink. This is the “cruel, Darwinian truth,” says Storr, yet the goodbye column is also a note of support for writers and writing.
Storr has worked in part as an art writer for the past 30 years, and has written his Frieze column since 2004. In a consideration of the place of art writing in the art world ecosystem, he writes, “in the hierarchies of power, critics – like squid – are agile bottom feeders.” His reasoning for the description? Art writing has been squeezed top and bottom from two sources, namely pretentious academic writing on high, and commercial PR babble at the low end. The few spots in between are mercilessly protected while resulting in only that most “ephemeral” of rewards: influence, or getting a word in to the overall conversation.
Being part of the dialogue is what drives us; figuring out how to give our ideas weight and our words bounce is the political, intellectual and literary challenge confronting us whenever we set to work.
Though art writers might be bottom feeders in a sense, scuttling around for tidbits falling from higher up the food chain, I’d prefer to think of it like muck-raking — continuously thinking, looking and investigating into the changing idea of art, from the bottom up. I think Storr understands this too, otherwise, I don’t expect he’d bother to write about art.
It’s worth thinking about, though. Considering the ever-weakening power of critics in an era of artist branding and massive blue-chip gallery markets, what role does the art critic or the art writer play? It’s clear that critics and writers no longer hold the responsibility of interpreting art for the unwashed masses. Jerry Saltz, probably the most visible contemporary art critic today, is a kind of cheerleader for artistic experience, like Anthony Bourdain is for food. Peter Schjeldahl is a mandarin who preaches from a pulpit. Storr is a whole other animal, a polymath who creates shows as much as he writes about them.
So do writers need to be art world dynamos? Or art reporters? Or cheerleaders? These are the questions art writers have to ask themselves. I’m not sure where I stand yet, but it’s good to hear Storr’s take.
The committee’s main responsibilities will be to shape policy goals, stimulate arts philanthropy, and advocate for the expansion of federal backing of the cultural sector.
Some museumgoers pointed out that the museum’s label omitted discussions of HIV/AIDS, which are at the heart of the work.
Featuring over 70 installations and performances at the George Washington University’s historic Flagg Building, the Corcoran’s end-of-year showcase is now available for virtual viewing.
But a museum in Harvard is still named after a member of the disgraced family, notorious for its role in the opioid crisis.
Parker’s stories bring so many of her works alive, give them meaning, and make us warm to her and to them. Is that a problem?
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
The works, and worlds, on display in Hancock’s exhibition seem saturated with a desire for narrative redemption through self-observation and aspects of his Christian upbringing.
The problem with Andrew Dominik’s biopic Blonde is its assumption that Monroe’s victimization was the most fascinating thing about her.
When I recently came across Sandra Cattaneo Adorno’s photo book Águas de Ouro, I could hear the waves and boomboxes, and even taste the salt on my lips.
Works by over 70 artists of the pan-South Asian diaspora were up for auction to help Pakistan’s most vulnerable communities in a women- and queer-led initiative.
The board of 70 Washington Street in Brooklyn, which previously housed an artist residency, is weighing the replacement of Helen Brough’s “Emulated Flora” with generic photographs of Brooklyn landmarks.