Thursday, October 28, 2010

And the Worst Visual Artist of the Year is…

And the Worst Visual Artist of the Year is…

Unless you follow the hardcore art blogging scene-- or are simply informed about art beyond knowing that Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear or that Pablo Picasso was a womanizer-- it often seems that online art debates, such as the ones you may find on Facebook groups or Myspace forums, boil down to petty rants that are infused with misdirected passion. Said rants tend to involve who the worst artist is or emotive tirades about what someone views as the worst art-- be it style or a specific work of art. While I normally do not involve myself with futile debates that strive to demonize or poke fun at a specific artist or work of art I do find the idea of ‘worst art’ or ‘worst artist’ to be both amusing and appealing.

Other forms of expression-- such as music and acting-- have long endured the wrath of worst lists. You can easily find worst list of musicians, actors, and even authors that focus on specific years. That said, it is rare to find worst lists involving the mainstream art world-- and the ones that do exist tend to never direct themselves at specific people. Instead of name dropping they will focus on the thought process of artists, art dealers, and art collectors. I suppose names are rarely targeted due to the fact that the mainstream art world is still rather isolated and inclusive. In other words, people don’t want to shoot themselves in the foot. Perhaps that should change.

I suggest that because while best and worst lists involving musicians, actors, and authors tend to involve public feedback or polling the few art lists that focus on the best-- and the even rarer lists that focus on the worst-- in art are often created without public insight or simply rely on a handful of professionals. It is even more common for such lists involving art and artists to be created by a single individual. My point is that while best and worst lists focused on music and acting are not exactly academic they do tend to reveal some truth concerning public opinion-- sadly, we often do not see that when it comes to mainstream artists and art galleries.

With this in mind I ask the following questions:

* Is it important to know public opinion concerning specific artists and art galleries compared to the opinion of art world professionals and other who are apt to not consider public opinion when creating lists that strive to define the popularity or infamy of artists, art galleries, and so on?

* Would you like to see more art magazines and art writers in general focus on best/worst lists involving artists and art galleries?

* If so, would you prefer that said lists involve public polling or some other form of feedback instead of being rooted in the opinion of professionals?

Personally, I think it would be interesting to know what the public views as the worst art or art gallery just to see how it compares to the writing of mainstream art critics and others who have an impact on how the history of art is documented. If a mainstream art critic suggests that a specific artist is speaking visually for the public by impacting our culture I would like to know if the public agrees or not.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. lists of best and worst seem utterly subjective to personal taste, public viewpoints which are influenced by who knows what, or mainstream critics. rather art could be reviewed, then open for discussion per artist or public debate and opinion. Your last line: "If a mainstream art critic suggests that a specific artist is speaking visually for the public by impacting our culture I would like to know if the public agrees or not." could be inserted after review. Certainly the discussion and dialogue is equally important as the originating critique. This way it balances with feedback rather than a critics opinion blanketing public view.

    every artist has an audience whether they are good or bad. what makes a bad artist or art? perhaps artists goes through a bad streak in their work? there are so many factors to consider when looking at art. often i wonder how many unknown artists with excellent work get bypassed by not being in a gallery or having critiques written by them. their reward is most likely the people that love and support them in their works.

  2. I think it would be important for artists to know what the public thinks is good/interesting/saleable. As an artist you want to make art that's meaningful and interesting, but if you want to make a living making art, then you also want to know a little about what people like to buy as well.

    And, personally, I'd LOVE to see a list of what the public considers the best/worst art galleries. It would be very, very interesting to see that list in Portland.

  3. Rasama, good points. Unfortunately, very few mainstream art critics strive for that kind of connection with the public. About the only one who comes to mind is Jerry Saltz.

    I've always been one to wonder how serious we should take art criticism that is rooted in a money-making art magazine. Where money is involved... cash handshakes follow. It is not uncommon to discover that some of the best artist reviews involve artists who happen to be represented by galleries that pay huge bucks for ad space. There is certainly room for a conspiracy theory or two. :)

    Yes, the power of high profile professionals in the art world can make or break an artist. It is amazing how a few words from key individuals can make an artist and overnight success. That said, it would be great if the public could do the same. Due to the fact that more and more artists are establishing a huge following online-- and the fact that the mainstream art world has been slow to embrace the Internet-- we may actually see the public have more of an impact on art and how art history is made.

    Cory, it would indeed be interesting to know exactly what the public is more apt to want hanging in their homes-- especially if it could be broke down into geographic locations. What is desired in Chicago compared to New York City as far as fine art goes? Or from one rural area to the next? Anyone who takes that task on deserves a grant!

    A list like that would shoot fear down the spines of art dealers-- that much I'm certain. It would actually be amusing to discover that galleries spending thousands to cater to high profile art critics and collectors are really not that popular in the cultural/societal diologue of art. I think we would find that many are important only due to their prices.

    I don't mean to insult anyone-- but come on... the money game is the reason the art market recently bottomed out in the first place. I sometimes worry that the sum of art history detailing our times will be more about prices than about art that taps the vein of our society. On the other hand-- maybe the way things have been in the mainstream art market is a perfect reflection of what we have become as a society.

    ...I need coffee.