January 2011: What Eclipse? A Response to Ben Davis

Total Eclipse of the Art: The Rise of Art News and the Crisis of Art Criticism by Ben Davis bemoans the state of art criticism as "art news" following his own read of Artlog.com's publication of The Best Art Writing of 2010. Like Artlog however Davis is narrow in his diatribe, mentioning only a few online art blogs and websites such as Artforum.com's Scene and Herd, Artnet.com and Artinfo.com - while leaving many more art blogs unnamed and assumed. 

The problem here is attributed to a lack of resources.  For one, Davis overlooks the historic fact that American art criticism, as it began with Clement Greenberg, evolved from marginal publications such as The Partisan Review and The Nation.  In addition, he missed stating that Artforum relocated to New York from Los Angeles in the late 1960s, for the sole purpose of being part of the evolving art world spectacle. 

The growing population of art bloggers has added to that history but by bringing tabloid journalism - not art criticism - into the framework of the artistic discourse. This is where Davis appears most confused.  In other words, art bloggers have not only reported journalistic news, but they have inflated their subjects with the blind assumption that shoot-from-the-hip sensationalism sells access to their websites. 

Contrary to Davis' assumption, art criticism continues to proliferate but still takes time to write.  Total Eclipse of the Art thus appears to be nothing but a riff on the title of a 1980s cover song that has been performed repeatedly by musicians.  If Davis is suddenly disappointed in quickly-written online cacophony, his once-solid footing in "art news" writing has turned slippery, hinting that the twilight of the art world's tabloids is near.


Jill Conner

Jill Conner is an art critic and curator based in New York City. She is currently the New York Editor for Whitehot Magazine and writes for other publications such as Afterimage, ArtUS, Sculpture and Art in America.  

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