Who is the Art Critic?

by Jizaino, 28 September 2012



Raoul Hausmann, “Der Kunstkritiker”, “The Art Critic” (detail), 1919-1920.
Lithograph and photographic collage on paper, 318 x 254 mm


What is the Art Critic's role? We all know that the Art world may be subdivided in two big subsets: the artists and the public. Thus we may say that the Critic belongs to the public, since he is a beholder. Hence, in its role of observer he is an individual who place himself over all the other observers, raising his voice to guide the other's opinion, to explain and to suggest them what they can't see.

In saying this, we can understand that indeed the Critic's role is not purely necessary; in fact often Art arises from the intimate need of the Artist to communicate directly to whom wants to listen, to they who adopt even temporarily the role of observers; and sometimes it arises also just from the need of the Artist to sublimate his own feelings not to necessarily transmit them to the others.
Nowadays, the critics have imposed the role thanks to their elocutionary skills most of the times rhetorical and adulatory because commissioned and paid, unto the creation of those contemporary think tanks that have managed to drive people in their artistic choices, placing themselves to a level of importance in many cases even overriding the artworks, in fact many artists recruit famous critics to impose themselves.
Really few critics dare to act their role of “active beholder” in a independent way, manifesting their judgement freely, either positive or negative, like recently the notorious Critic Gillo Dorfles has denounced, who has the authority to rebuke the others from the height of his 102 years and his ambivalent status of Critic and Artist.

After the artistic revolution of the Renaissance that saw the dawn of the modern Artist (who emancipated from the role of artisan subordinated to the will of the commissioners to that of a self-determined intellectual), today may we assist at the new revolution of the artists that are emancipating also from the hegemony of the critic?
Perhaps it is already so: the self-referentiality and the crypticism of many artists seem to confirm that; yet, the arduous comprehensibility of their artworks has given birth to throngs of critics that analyse them, but even this confirms that the critics belong to the beholders' sphere, bringing in fact the criticism to the same level of the comments and the opinions made by the public facing the true fulcrum over which all the art world is spinning: the Artwork.
This natural subdivision between artists and the public, where the Critic becomes again a peer of all the other beholders, is evident in the contemporary dissenting movement against the critic, for which many artists refuse the idea that their work may be introduced by mercenary critics, and even more often the same Artists attend to the autonomous production of the critical text of his own artworks, facilitating their reading and to emphasise his social commitment in the wish to communicate with the public.

As much as a Critic may have chords, merit certificates, academic qualifications or prestige, he will always be a beholder of the public, unless his own feeling and his disquisition at some point will show such a sincere and disinterested passion that the derived produce, the criticism, will become an artwork too.

The Critic may be seen indeed as a player of the art world who is located in a limbo between artists and public: only when his expression is animated by a sincere and disinterested movement of the soul, his criticism may rise to the status of creation, transporting him from the role of beholder in the public to the role of Artist; an Artist whose expression is conceptual and whose discipline is the literature.

The “true” Art Critic does not exist: he is a sublimating figure in the transition from beholder to Artist.

All the others are just pensionary rhetors.

Jizaino -





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