Critics follow the dollar signs

Post by Kevin Finklea

[Editor’s note: This is the latest in a thread on art criticism, last post here.]


finkleainstallI have been mulling over your continued postings about the lack of criticism in PHL. I must admit this is something that I do not worry about as an exhibiting artist (left, installation of some of Finklea’s work).

The central issue I see in matters of criticism is pure economics. Much of what we see reviewed in the glossies is done so because of market interests. How many times have we seen the appearance of an article singing the praises of an artist, whose work just happens to be up for auction during that season? Then there are the reviews of shows in galleries that just happen to take out full page ads, which support the very venues where the criticism appears. And what of the reviewed artist who happened to go to all the right monied schools and shows in the gallery of someone from the same world of privilege? In short one often sees links to money in what is reviewed. And realizing this, much of what is reviewed is of little to no real importance. The review only serves to bolster the market value of the reviewee.

As I write this it seems pointlessly evident but of importance for the following issue. In PHL we’ve a real lack of the kind of capital that makes for this kind of reviewing machinery. There aren’t the over-capitalized galleries here of NYC and London. There isn’t anything close to the auctioning that goes on in those cities in PHL either. Without the concerns of a monied class and it’s need to sustain the value of it’s trinkets; why would PHL ever generate any sort of large critical facility?


And this points to a second issue that I believe merits thought. True criticism is dependent upon a readership that both cares about and understands the issues reviewed. This country generally has a bias towards anything intellectual and certainly against culture. Art and culture are not educational priorites in the United States. …Who the hell will read what we critique under such circumstances?

I have to add here that I do not accept the commonly held perception that one should be able to look at any art object and instantly understand it. God knows I’ve encountered this at numerous openings and gallery talks. And I am not so arrogant as to never offer any explanations. I always try to get my challengers to see things with a bit more openness and understanding. I say challengers as I often find myself at odds with someone expressing anger with me as an artist. That anger almost always seems based in a lack knowledge and often out of true cultural ignorance.

Here I offer the following from Bridgit Riley from her “The Eye’s Mind”:


I think it very probable that in the future there may be a divergence of paths [in the visual arts]: one tendancy will come more and more to resemble the world of pop music, with group following group or movement following movement, supported by a vast promotional structure. Simultaneously, genuine development will tend to go underground (My italics in this quotation).

I honestly believe we’ve come to live in that future. I thank you both for the artblog. You have provided a venue for a little noise from that underground.

–Artist Kevin Finklea, who recently showed at Pentimenti, will be showing in New York at Margaret Thatcher Projects in March-April concurrent with a group show (tentative title, “Heavenly”) at Hunter College.