If you like art criticism, but wish there were more fisticuffs, then the Review Panel is for you. It’s like cage fighting for art critics.
Last night I attended the February meeting of the Review Panel, which is a monthly program sponsored by artcritical.com and the National Academy Museum. Picture three critics on a dais, facing an audience of about 100, put on the spot by moderator David Cohen as they express their opinions of four current exhibitions.
It’s delicious to watch them disagree politely and deferentially while they deliver their barbed comments. The loser is the one who ends up trying to defend an unpopular position after the legs have been pulled out from under it by the other critics. Will he crumple or maintain a brave front?
Moderator David Cohen (www.artcritical.com/author/David/) is a master of dry British understatement as well as editor and publisher of artcritical.com. Last night he was joined by painter and critic Peter Plagens (www.peterplagens.com), artist and critic David Brody (www.david-brody.com/index.html), and critic Paddy Johnson (www.artfagcity.com/about/).
They reviewed the Francis Alys video Reel-Unreel, which I’ve discussed already, Diana Cooper’s show at Postmasters (ditto) and two other shows that I’ve already forgotten. There were no fireworks, although first-time panelist Paddy Johnson was the minority vote on artists Diana Cooper and David Shrigley. (Okay I lied. I remember the show. I just didn’t like it.)
The first time I attended the Review Panel, there was a priceless moment when New York Times critic Roberta Smith told moderator David Cohen that he didn’t see enough art and was just “ignorant”. It was a jab-cross-uppercut combo, although she did apologize later in the evening.
One of the best things about the Review Panel is the ability to see and hear articulate critics discuss emerging and established artists in plain English instead of artspeak. If you miss the monthly event, go to www.artcritical.com to listen to the podcasts that are posted afterward. You can also sign up for emailed reminders.
In the “real” world, art hardly matters, and art criticism matters not at all. But anytime that thoughtful, well-educated people get together to talk, argue, and persuade is an event I don’t want to miss.