to art criticism and curation as "The Dark Arts," but
I'll dwell on the former here.
The main reason anyone even cares about art criticism is because
the visual arts are so subjective that any outside claims for legitimacy
and/or infamy are useful. Sure, getting a review is a bit like jumping
into quicksand (the more you struggle its definitions the more you
sink), but most artists want one at some point in their career.
Overall, my goal is to reward that which is rewarding and punish
that which is punishing so, yes, being provoked is important. That
said, don't write grandiose notes to a critic, it makes you look
insecure, which is the kiss of death. Let's just say nobody wants
to make a baby cry. Critics aren't mean (mostly) ... we care but,
by placing limits on whom and what we care about, we stay sane and
So, what does it take to get a review? Well, I've made a study of
my own habits and those of other critics and these tips might help:
1) Ubiquity: most art critics see so much work they become blasé.
Many times the best way to get a review is to simply up the amount
of chatter and sightings of your work. If a critic can't avoid your
work they will be forced to contend with it. This might not lead
to an article but several unavoidable instances will increase the
2) Above all, do not play dumb even when being pretentious. If your
art is obviously related to Titian and Bullwinkle cartoons and you
are confronted by a critic about the issue, either take a pretentious
stance and obfuscate the obvious or take on the issue with candor.
To a certain point, a critic is looking at the work and artist,
evaluating levels of insight and self-knowledge. An artist who is
a master of all of his demons (or at least an intelligent custodian)
will get a reviewer's attention. If an artist understands the context
of their work within their life, it shows.
3) Meet the critic. Yes, this often backfires and I've often decided
not to write about an artist because I've met them. Still, if they
are intriguing I'll keep them in mind for coverage at a later date.
I like to watch for a while and get a compass reading on an artist.
4) Execution of the show and work. I consider art exhibitions to
be a form of phrenology and only the more serious artists can keep
the level of a show consistently high. Most artists create at least
one decent work in their lives; the better artists know why the
work works. The best ones don't pander and reflexively challenge
their methods for producing their better works.
5) Never waste anyone's time. If your show requires ridiculous amounts
of text to explain its relevance, you may be a confused art writer
who thinks they are an artist. Some statements are good but over-explaining
and insecure obfuscation will tire the critic looking at (or should
I say reading) your tedious show.
6) Never take anything personally. Critics worry about the mental
health of people they encounter all the time and if you go gonzo
it makes them doubly so. Calm people with a little restraint impress
a critic, especially if the critic has already been critical of
7) Let the critic have space. So a critic is at your show ... have
the gallerist introduce you but give them a chance to survey the
room before any extensive conversation. If they seem cagey, it may
be that they are still processing and need some room.
8) All critics have their ticks; research them. Jerry Saltz likes
to understand systems that produce complex yet organized activity,
Peter Schjeldahl likes great art that inspires him to be the poet
he never got to be and Matthew Collings likes anything that enhances
his subjectivity as a travelogue of experiences.
Locally, D.K. Row likes photography and voyeuristic scenes; if you
make that kind of work make certain he at least hears about it.
I like minimalism, abstraction, civilization and physical space
defining work ... let me know if you have a show of this sort of
thing. It's a Pandora's Box, though; critics know a lot about what
they like and will let you know if it isn't working. This is an
opportunity and you don't have to agree but you should take anything
offered as a concern to address. All artwork is viewed subjectively
but the better stuff has fewer chinks in its armor ... that way,
even an unfavorable review often becomes a litany of the show's
9) Just because you read what a critic writes, don't become confident
you know how and what they think or like. Language creates a false
10) If the show is very tight and well executed, you really don't
matter; step aside and let the work speak.
11) Know that reviews are only important in clusters of consensus
and act accordingly. Some critics try to be the first to review,
others are reactionaries and like to be last. Good artists always
get the last laugh and any decent critic knows this.
This isn't everything but it does affect how critics react to you
and your work. The biggest thing is that the work, the show and
your conduct have some sort of internal consistency. Reviewers often