The Demise of the Art Critic

The Demise of the Art Critic

art-critic.jpgPrior to the in the late 19th century, before the emergence of modernism, when skill, technical prowess and accuracy were the factors used to determine how good a painting was, the role of the art critic was quite clearly defined because of the clearly defined factors and principles that were used to determine whether an artwork was good or not . Now that artists are producing such a wide variety of works that no longer conform to any sort of clearly defined or universally accepted standards, guidelines or conventions, the role and purpose of the art critic has come into question. Artistic trends and movements are coming and going quicker than ever and artists are constantly experimenting with new mediums and different techniques in order to achieve vastly different goals and results which has resulted in the task of properly critiquing most artworks almost impossible.

The aesthetics of an artwork continue to play a less and less important role in defining an artwork, especially when it comes to conceptual art, where the actual concept of the artwork is more important than the physical representation of the concept to the point where with some artworks the concept is the artwork and does not require a physical representation. As we tend to judge an artwork on it’s aesthetic attributes it becomes extremely hard to provide an accurate and objective critique when what we are viewing may not be the primary focus of the artwork. The fact that many artists are not aiming for an artwork that would be considered to be “good” complicates things even further.

The definition of a critic is someone who judges and evaluates which requires quantifiable and definable principles or guidelines to judge and evaluate against so if these principles and guidelines cease to exist, or become irrelevant, then the ability to judge or evaluate an artwork has to be questioned. I still call myself an art critic because that is what the other people who perform similar functions to myself call themselves, but I think that the term has become obsolete and should be replaced with something like art editorialist, art journalist, art reporter, art theorist or something else that accurately represents the more subjective and theoretical approach that most art writers take. I just hope that that people do not get discouraged from writing about art but instead alter their approach and embrace the exciting developments that are taking place in the art world.

Nick**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

7 Responses

  1. Good points and a good read!

  2. Hi Nick ! Thank you for your positive answer to my previous comment (Dec 2).
    Your opinion above is quite right, there is no place now for a new Charles Baudelaire. As far as I appreciate your effort you are an art helper. I also try to be an art helper (just starting). I rely my views only upon art auction based on my comment that the best knowledgeable person on an art piece is not the auctioneer, is not the seller, is not the specialist. He (she) is the buyer, and no price, whatever it may look incredible to the average reader, is the result of chance from the buyer’s point of view. Every significant auction result is worth to be analysed to understand and publish which property of the piece led to that result. Such analysis is very rarely made. This is the reason why art market shall appreciate your pioneering approach.

  3. Hello Nick, you have a very interesting blog. A fascinating read.

    I have to disagree with you on the premise. Although I do see how critique has grown to become a more and more complex discipline, I don’t think that it has been disintegrated altogether. This is probably just a post-modern quirk, a sign of the times… Eventually the discipline will get over it. The basic elements of art — composition, unity, harmony — are still there, and so must be art critique.

  4. Hi Lynda, thanks for the compliment.

    Nicholas Forrest

  5. Hi Pierre,
    thanks for the comment. I totally agree that the buyer is the most important opinion in the art market.

    Nicholas Forrest

  6. Hi Elijah,

    Thanks for the comment. It is true that the basic elements of art still exist in the work of some artists but the artists whose work embodies all these principles would be in the minority. As the art world continues to evolve and develop the artists that represent these principles and basics of the classical school will continue to dwindle as experimentation and diversication increase

    Nicholas Forrest

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