Visiting art critics speak on the public’s role in criticism

It is the influence of the masses that now drives art criticism, according to two seasoned art critics that spoke in the University Center Auditorium on Nov. 20.

It is the influence of the masses that now drives art criticism, according to two seasoned art critics that spoke in the University Center Auditorium on Nov. 20.

A true power couple,  Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith have been married for over 20 years and have reputations as distinct voices whose writings have set the tone for art criticism in America today.

During their public lecture, Saltz and Smith spoke in broad strokes on the contemporary art scene, the importance of artists developing their work critically, and on the role of the critic in the digital age—more of an inward perspective on their own endeavors.

Smith, a senior critic for the New York Times and a lecturer on contemporary art, is known for her writing about contemporary art as well as a broad range of genres including design, architecture and decorative arts.

Saltz is known for his accessible, candid and at times humorous writing style and democratic approach to critical dialogue in New York Magazine. He has embraced new media and popular culture as a means to connect audiences to art.

Saltz and Smith used their time in Knoxville to continue the debate on contemporary art.

“Criticism is not driving the market anymore” said Saltz.

“I’m not the one with the power and neither is my husband,” said Smith. “It’s the people. Everybody has a vote.”

Smith and Saltz touched on the broader issue of criticism in an age of opinion.

Smith tells the audience not only of their position as consumers but as critics themselves in the movies and shows that are watched, the things that are liked, and the art and culture people choose to embrace.

“Looking at art critically is never a bad thing,” Saltz said. “Artists should even develop their work critically.”

“Artists must realize they don’t own the meaning of their work and neither does the critic. Instead, it is completed by the people that see it,” Saltz said.

“As a critic, writing is a process of understanding something, be it art or music or anything,” said Smith. “It starts out as an opinion that comes into focus, sometimes in a completely different way than expected.”

“Open dialogue is the key to all this. I encourage people to talk back about what they think about a piece, and I respond. And they respond and so do I,” Saltz said.

“I’ll admit that I hold an opinion, but I’m not the opinion. It’s you all.”

Edited by Maggie Jones