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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.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…