The Work of Art Criticism: Collaboration, Communication, Community

Matthew Bowman (2020)

Arts 9(4), 101, pp. 1-15.

Abstract. This essay aims to reconsider the practice of art criticism. The first part aims to clear away some misconceptions that reduce art criticism to a fundamentally negative discourse that asserts a theory/practice distinction. In the second part, the essay tries to think of art criticism as collaborative writing alongside rather than about an artist. The third part, however, highlights some problems insofar as communication and collaboration have become imbricated within post-Fordist socioeconomic frameworks. In addition, the fourth part seeks to propose another direction by suggesting why art criticism and Kantian aesthetics may discover a renewed interest in one another through rethinking the sensus communis as an alternative to post-Fordist sociality.

Extract. “Published in France in 1999, and translated into English during 2007, Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello’s book The New Spirit of Capitalism provides an in-depth sociological analysis of these economic changes—especially as these appertain to France but also with a general applicability to other nation states. Historically situated as a counter-response to Fordist capitalism, they argue, were two modes of critique, namely, social critique (which focuses on inequality, poverty, egoism, and exploitation) and artistic critique, which, in Boltanski’s words “criticizes oppression in the capitalist world (the domination of the market, the discipline of the factory), the uniformity of mass society and the commodification of everything, and it valorises an ideal of liberation and individual autonomy, of uniqueness and authenticity” (Boltanski 2008, p. 55). Although identified as two different types of critique, insofar as capitalism is their mutual target, then social and artistic critique may be regarded as two sides of the same coin. Artistic critique is not here the same thing as art criticism but, rather, is closer to artistic practice and names attributes that may be found in both artistic practice and art criticism (to an extent, art criticism might function somewhere between social and art critique). Historically, Boltanski and Chiapello argue, social critique would be more prevalent than artistic critique, which is mostly restricted to particular avant-garde circles.” (p. 7-8)

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