Tag Archives: Boris Groys

The Naked Critic

26 Jan

For a long time now, the art critic has seemed a legitimate representative of the art world. Like the artist, curator, gallery owner, and collector, when an art critic shows up at an opening or some other art-world event, nobody wonders, What’s he doing here? That something should be written about art is taken as self-evident. When works of art aren’t provided with a text – in an accompanying pamphlet, catalogue, art magazine, or elsewhere – they seem to have been delivered into the world unprotected, lost and unclad. Images without text are embarrassing, like a naked person in a public space. At the very least they need a textual bikini in the form of an inscription with the name of the artist and the title (in the worst case this can read “untitled”). Only the domestic intimacy of a private collection allows for the full nakedness of a work of art.

The function of the art critic – perhaps art commentator would be a better way of putting it – consists, it is thought, in preparing such protective text-clothes for works of art. These are, from the start, texts not necessarily written to be read. The art commentator’s role is entirely misconstrued if one expects him to be dear and comprehensible. In fact, the more hermetic and opaque a text, the better: texts that are too see-through let works of art come across naked. Of course, there are those whose transparency is so absolute that the effect is especially opaque. Such texts provide the best protection, a trick well-known to every fashion designer. In any case, it would be naive for anyone to try and read art commentary. Luckily, few in the art world have hit upon this idea.

— Boris Groys, ArtForum, October 1997