Criticism versus Publicity

Alfredo Triff is an interesting guy who lives in Miami, teaches at a local college and writes about art on his blog miami bourbaki. I don’t know exactly what he teaches—somewhere in the realm of philosophy/history/political economy—but I like his blog, which is funny and argumentative. A recent post lays out the distinction between genuine art criticism and publicity masquerading as criticism. His description of what criticism should be like is terrific, with qualities such as “acerbic and lean,” “seeking originality, novelty and richness,” “adversarial, not hostile,” and it “rewards critical courage: Call a spade a spade!” I can assent to all that, and I even try for many of the same things—the list is pretty inspiring. But the counterposing list of the sins of what he calls artblicity is not as interesting. It’s hard to rail against the corruption of the art world because a certain amount of charlatanism, opportunism and two-facedness is constitutional. Scoundrels and bad characters are welcome, even necessary in art, so it’s not wise to get moralistic about it. The art world might be a gang of thieves, but very charming and cultured thieves, and pleasant to pal around with. Remember 42nd. St — “where the underworld meets the elite.” Actually, I’m making it out to be better than it is. If the art world has got worse in any way it’s because it’s become too boringly upper middle class, hardly surprising in an era when white collar crime is legal. The worst crime in art writing is blandness. Going on a tirade about “criticism” is like fighting custard. But the real lesson is that positive achievements are way more interesting than failures, as is true in art itself. And that’s a critical insight, though a debatable one, not an example of “positive thinking.”

Caravaggio, The cardsharps c. 1594

Caravaggio, The cardsharps c. 1594

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One Response to Criticism versus Publicity

  1. alfredo triff says:

    thanks, robert.

    The worst crime in art writing is blandness.

    brilliantly put.

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