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December 7, 2012

The End of Mainstream Art Criticism?

A. D. Coleman, photo by Steven Speliotis
A.D. Coleman
photo by Steven Speliotis

Just a few decades ago, mainstream newspapers and magazines that considered contemporary culture as their broad subject included designated art critics as regular contributors. A vigorous mainstream dialogue about art past and present resulted, integrated into contexts in which the other arts also received consideration, alongside other social, poliical, and cultural concerns.

The existence of that often contentious but always accessible dialogue -- conducted by such diverse figures as Peter Plagens, Ingrid Sischy, Hilton Kramer, and Robert Hughes -- implied that awareness of art and the discourse around it was an aspect of active citizenship. Those critics, grounded in contemporary theory and practice, chronicled the public life of art in their time; the best of what they wrote endures as significant contributions to the literature of art.

While the impulse to produce that kind of writing for that kind of audience persists, the opportunities for doing so, as either a staff writer or a free lance, have diminished considerably. Among the causes: the economic crisis in the periodicals industry; the substitution of generalist "cultural journalists" for specialized critics in the arts; the internet-driven fragmentation of online periodicals into specialized, subject-specific spaces; and the rise of everyman as critic enabled by the web and facilitated by blog-ware.

This dialogue will examine those developments and their implications for the future of informed writing about art as a feature of mainstream culture.

A. D. Coleman, author, critic and art historian
photo by Steven Speliotis

A. D. Coleman has published 8 books and more than 2000 essays on photography and related subjects. Formerly a columnist for the Village Voice, the New York Times, and the New York Observer, Coleman has contributed to ARTnews, Art On Paper, Technology Review, Juliet Art Magazine (Italy), European Photography (Germany), La Fotografia (Spain), and Art Today (China). His work has been translated into 21 languages and published in 31 countries. In 2002 he received the Culture Prize of the German Photographic Society, the first critic of photography ever so honored. In 2010 he received the J Dudley Johnston Award from the Royal Photographic Society (U.K.) for "sustained excellence in writing about photography." Coleman's widely read blog "Photocritic International" appears at Since 2005, exhibitions that he has curated have opened at museums, galleries, and festivals in Canada, China, Finland, Italy, Rumania, Slovakia, and the U.S.

Douglas I. Sheer, author, artist, technologist, founder and chairman, Artist Talk On Art

Douglas I. Sheer is a Founder and has been the Chairman of the board of directors of Artists Talk On Art since its inception in 1975. An painter by training, Sheer was also a pioneering video artist in the 1960s and 70s and hsi work is in numerous collections. A technologist, He has edited and published two books, both in 1981, one on electronic news-gathering and the other on audio-visual resources for photographic education (with Coleman). A third book, on 3D technology is pending. His syndicated technology column on broadcasting, pro video and pro audio technology appears in over 80 countries each month. As a technology analyst/researcher his published reports include coverage of displays, camcorders, Digital Cinematography, switchers, servers, radio/audio, creative software and more. He is Past Chair of the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers New York Section (chapter). He has edited and published dailies at conventions including Broadcast Asia and the International Broadcasting Conference (Amsterdam).

Organized by: A. D. Coleman

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December 2012

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