Why Art Criticism Matters — Or Does It?

While enjoying our daily brain-breakfast, courtesy of WNYC this morning, we heard something of particular note. According to art critic Deborah Solomon, there are only eight, full-time, art critics employed by newspapers in the United States today. Eight. And that's the total after the city of Chicago's last full-time critic was laid off by Time Out.
That, we think, is a very sad state of affairs. In our dream world, we like to think that the age of Internet media is about making more good things — deep things, serious things, educational things, as well as silly things — available to more people. In that same dream world, there are more jobs for cultural arbiters, not fewer. Maybe parts of our fantasy are true, but stats like these make us think it's really just about cat .GIFs and baby videos (not that those are bad things, per se). Solomon, in this clip, explores the notion that while art critics might not be the jolliest or most down-to-Earth people, they are still worth keeping around.
There's one moment, in particular, of Solomon's eloquent venting that stuck with us: "Without them, New Yorkers would probably talk about nothing but real estate." Listen to what she has to say, then tell us: Is art criticism, in its traditional form, obsolete? Is this void actually an opportunity for more democratic, diverse forms of cultural criticism? Or have we lost something instrumental to the maintenance of culture?
Photo: Christian Oth/Courtesy of WNYC.

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