difﬁcult to practice art criticism. What are some of the other conditions of this difﬁculty, of this crisis today?
Well, here is an example of a change. Dealers, I think, used to feelthat the work of art didn’t exist in a discursive vacuum, that it was given itsexistence in part by critical discourse, and therefore there was a need forcatalogs with serious essays by critics. That perceived need, on the part of boththe artist and the dealer, seems to have diminished in the last ten years, to thepoint where the institution of those catalogs has for the most part disappeared. And what seems to have replaced it is simply the fact that the artist is havingshows regularly at an established gallery and that is enough. This sense that there is a kind of discursive space within which the artist has to be placed inorder for the work to take on a certain kind of importance has pretty much vanished in established art magazines as well.
I would like to back this up. I think that we have witnessed in thelast twenty years or so an extraordinary process of abstraction, or ratherextraction, a heretofore unknown level of specialization. Once the traditionalassumption that artistic practices supposedly generate a critical if not a utopiandimension of experience had withered away, we were left with a sense of theprimacy of institutional and economic interests. The judgment of the critic is voided by the curator’s organizational access to the apparatus of the cultureindustry (e.g., the international biennials and group shows) or by thecollector’s immediate access to the object in the market or at auction. Now, all you have to have is the competence of quality judgments and the high-levelconnoisseurship that serves as investment expertise. My exaggeration—andadmittedly it is an exaggeration—serves to say that you don’t need criticism foran investment structure, you need experts. You don’t have criticism of bluechip stocks either.Criticism, as a voice that had traditionally been independent of both insti-tutions and markets and that had mediated the various segments of the publicsphere of avant-garde culture, was obviously the ﬁrst thing to go (and thetraditional functions of the museum were the next). Both of these elements of the public sphere of art have become mythical and obsolete, since nobody really wants to know and nobody has to know any longer what the context, thehistory, the intentions, and the desires of artistic practice might have been.I think this discussion is an extraordinary opportunity to consider thesedevelopments from the vantage point of the different perspectives andpositions represented by this group: artists who are critics or artists who workin a very critical fashion; two or three generations of art critics and historiansspeaking to each other; and a critic who is a major museum curator.
Going back to Rosalind’s comment for a moment, I think it’s important to make a distinction here between different kinds of critical discourses anddifferent kinds of writing about art. I think we have to be careful about how we’re deﬁning criticism. For example, if we’re deﬁning criticism according to aOCTOBER 202