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What Happened to Art Criticism? - James Elkins

Most of my audience has no formal interest in art, so I’m not sure they’d enjoy this book, but I did.

It is a very small book, an essay, but it speaks to something I consider very important.

Many lay people comment that the visual arts are effectively dead, which is not at all true (I’m sure there are more artists alive today than ever in history, and more combined talent than ever).

What IS dead is the importance of the visual arts. And I think that has a lot to do with art criticism. This book discusses why art criticism has become irrelevant - even though there are plenty of critics, and countless brochures and articles written, they mean nothing to the art world as a whole, to the artists themselves, and definitely to the lay public.

It is said that we have replaced art with movies and music, but I would hardly call that a replacement. You can’t replace an apple with an orange, they are different things. But film and music criticism isn’t suffering from the same self-imposed limitations as art criticism.

I am a critic myself (of books), and so I study criticism. But I have to listen to film and music critics, even though I hardly watch movies or listen to new music, because art criticism effectively tells me nothing about either the art or the art of criticism.

Art criticism is basically just descriptive these days, abstaining from judgement. But judgement is what makes the conversation relevant.

This book was very thought provoking and I hope that more people (both artists and non artists) would be involved in this conversation. Maybe art could become relevant again.