Learning to be an art critic, week 1

Last Monday, I went to the first session of a five-week art criticism course at the Tate Modern: The Critical I. The course curriculum sounded perfect for my non-art-expert/non-professional-critic blog, promising to explore the art of criticism and to help develop my critical eye and critical faculties.

I was amused by the circle of chairs they had set up, which made it feel like an Art critics Anonymous meeting. The other students were a diverse crowd with varied motivations for attending the course: art history students, journalists, teachers, bankers… even some onlookers who just wanted to be in the gallery after hours. I think the diversity of students was a real bonus and I found the paired/small groups exercises led to some interesting exchanges. I was glad to see art enthusiasts like me, in addition to the usual art nerds eager to share samples of their (admittedly impressive) work.

The course was designed to foster discussion of the concept of critic, critical, criticism and critique and emphasised the notion of judgement while validating both the professional and non professional critic (phew!).

The course tutor also introduced the idea of the curator as critic, which I think relates to the critic’s power to influence. We looked at the Tate Modern’s Structure and Clarity space which gathered works of abstract art, constructivism, and modernist sculptures. We felt the influence of the curator when looking at the works, in seeing the geometrical shapes as a link between the artworks and, in our interpretation, the clarity of forms was the other link. It posed the question of thematic vs. chronological displays (eg: thematic at the Tate Modern vs. chronological at the Tate Britain).

I am very much looking forward to the next session!

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