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Art or Not Art?

June 26th, 2009 · No Comments

Photography Theory edited by James ElkinsRenaissance Theory edited by James Elkins and Robert WilliamsThe State of Art Criticism edited by James Elkins and Michael Newman

James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair of Art History, Theory and Criticism at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has been busy editing several insightful and inquisitive books as part of The Art Seminar series published by Routledge.

The State of Art Criticism is a follow up to his earlier book What Happened to Art Criticism where he painstakingly analyzes the writings of contemporary art critics. He argues that critics have lost their fighting edge as they have settled into an interpretive mode of presenting their views. Despite the proliferation of art writings, critics are neither judgmental nor willing to make or break artists. Elkins’ mission is to bring back staunch art criticism, and establish it as a field of study on the graduate level. Is it okay for critics to be opinionated after many years of non-committal art criticism? According to Elkins there is much more art writing appearing in various forms than ever before.

In his article, With newspapers in terminal decline, what future for arts journalism? published in the Issue 202 of The Art Newspaper, András Szántó reminds us how established newspapers are struggling with bankruptcy and laying off seasoned journalists as independent journalism continues to flourish in the form of blogs. Szántó, Director of the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University’s Journalism School, cites ArtBabble as a successful example of an online collaborative project, featuring the high quality video productions of several institutions. He stresses that this type of innovative effort can lead to future hybrid models that can potentially save arts criticism and reportage. Several American universities including Columbia have strong enrollments in their journalism programs. In the same article Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is mentioned suggesting “buying newspaper subscriptions for college students—a bailout that would replenish future readers.”

Saving the media business was the main subject of the recent panel discussion The Future of Arts Journalism hosted by Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Student Affairs at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The desire and need to deliver truthful, objective and lasting storytelling continues to attract many writers and students. Clearly journalism can not be exempt from the similar challenges faced by other businesses attempting to be bullish and thrive in this highly competitive and technological environment.

Tags: Art · Books · Business · Criticism · Debate · Education · New York · Technology · Theory · Video

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