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Art Critic, Conflict

Posted by Geoff Edgers  January 18, 2008 02:53 PM

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First on my list of "do nots" for 2008 is submitting to an interview with Tyler Green. Not that he's a bad guy. I just worry that somewhere along the line he'll hit me with a question like this, asked of Village Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune.

MAN: You're a managing director of a commercial art fair, Volta, and an organizer of another commercial art fair, Chicago's Next fair. At the same time you're a writer, a journalist, you're the art critic for the Village Voice. Why isn't that the most basic kind of conflict of interest?

More cringe-worthy is Viveros-Faune's answer. I'm not going to post it all, but you can go here to read.

I will pick out a couple of arguments made by Viveros-Faune.

1. "I think essentially, because, I believe you can wear a lot of hats in the art world, and one needs to because, among other things, critics can't survive on the money that they make from writing. Very few critics can."

Fair enough. Writing criticism, or writing anything, is not the most direct route to a house in the Hamptons. But it is a choice. And when you make that choice, it should be with the understanding that you're writing because you want people to believe your words. How can we believe when such an obvious conflict exists?

If Viveros-Faune needs a little extra cash, he should think of opportunities that don't conflict with his high profile job. Run a writing workshop. Lobby for oil companies. Wait tables. But don't take work that conflicts with your writing job, which might not pay all the bills but is important, coveted and now compromised.

2. "...Examine, for second, the practice of writing catalog essays. You know and I know that there is no such thing as a negative catalog essay and the reason for that is obvious: one way critics make money is by writing promotional copy for galleries and, hopefully, artists they like or love."

There's not much to say about that. The words speak for themselves.

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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..
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