Art Criticism: Past, Present and Future



During the period of his 2015/16 fellowship, curatorial fellow Morgan Quaintance ran two public courses on Art Criticism.

Devised to give participants practical information and an understanding of the discipline’s history and current possibilities, emphasis was also placed on exploring criticism’s social and political contexts, and the use, development and different approaches to style, rhetoric and perspective.

The first iteration of the course ran to four sessions, while the second was enhanced to include two additional classes, one extending a look at criticism online and the other, a dedicated seminar giving participants further opportunity for discussion and debate. The sessions were as follows below:


Session 1: The first two hundred years

We’ll survey the activity of art critics across the 18th and 19th centuries, tracking their evolution from salon commentators and neoclassical enthusiasts, to supporters of individual expression, Romanticism and the sublime.

Session 2: Criticism in the twentieth century

With formalism at one end and postmodernism at the other, the 21st century saw the USA enter the fray, magazines proliferate, and the explosion of different perspectives through critical theory, postcolonial thinking, feminism, queer theory and more. We’ll look at how all of this informed, deepened, politicised and democratized criticism. Or did it?

Session 3: Style, rhetoric and perspective

Continuing from where critical theory and postmodernism left off, we’ll consider different approaches to style, looking at how specific writers choose to present their arguments, and, perhaps by extension, themselves. Through analysis of different modes of address, tone and rhetorical form, particular attention will be paid to criticality (is it performed or actually enacted?), political engagement (is it important?) and personal risk (should a critic embrace it?)

Session 4: The 21st Century: Crisis? What crisis? – Part 1

Although many column inches have been devoted to the ‘crisis of criticism’ there is, at present, more criticism then ever before in both the art world and the wider cultural scene. In this final session we’ll look at criticism today in print. How has its proliferation effected the production of contemporary art? Is it a pluralistic field in which a multitude of critical positions are convincingly articulated? Is ‘real’ criticism happening anymore, or is it all just description?

Session 5: The 21st Century: Crisis? What crisis? – Part 2

We’ll continue our investigation of criticism in the 21st Century, with a specific focus on criticism on the internet.

Session 6: Seminar: Group Discussion, 29 November

In this final session we’ll engage in a focused and directed group discussion.

Cubitt Gallery is part of an artist-led organisation based in Islington, London. We promote innovative curatorial practice with an 18-month Bursary, supporting curators at the beginning of their careers.

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