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Gallerina's First Annual Year-End Guide to Year-End Arts Coverage

Trying to wade through those year-end lists of best and worst can be mind-boggling. We've done the dirty work for you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - 12:00 AM

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Not a Year-End Critical Hit: The New Museum's 'Skin Fruit' show, which was curated by Jeff Koons. Above: Tim Noble and Sue Webster's sculpture 'Masters of the Universe,' in the exhibit. (Carolina A. Miranda)

The year is fast coming to a close, which means that in addition to being besieged by family and stale fruitcake, we also find ourselves knee-deep in year-end wrap-ups--from lengthy essays that attempt to sum up what the last 365 days could possibly mean to endless lists of the best, the worst, and the most ridiculous of 2010.

The short of it is that the sheer quantity of year-end lists is mind-boggling. So the staff here at Gallerina has done the hard work for you. Presenting the 'First Annual Year-End Guide to Year-End Arts Coverage,' complete with a highly scientific Marina Abramovic Heads Rating System: . (One head means the story is worth a peek; three heads means it merits a full-on staredown in a museum atrium.)

Herewith, in no particular order, is our short list of year-end lists penned by some of the most well-known art critics:

Holland Cotter, New York Times Cotter has produced a saucy year-ender that features a list of nine art world ‘Highs’ and ‘Lows.” He goes after all the hype about auctions (“rich people playing big shot in public”), as well as about food artist Jennifer Rubell (“slaughterhouses-worth of animals have been tortured and killed to enable [her] career”). But he makes a serious misstep, claiming that no one was in “the mood to voice doubts when the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles hired a gallery dealer, Jeffrey Deitch, as its director.” Um, lots of folks did, including L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight. Sorry, Mr. Cotter, but for that, we’ll have to dock you a Marina Head.

Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine The noted art critic and reality TV ham (seriously, his blog posts about appearing on Work of Art were achingly honest must-reads) has multiple year-enders in a variety of media. Up first, his magazine round-up of the 'Year in Art,' a respectable, if pro forma, look at ten of the year’s most intriguing shows, big and small. Far juicier is his selection of the art industry’s top ten ‘lows,' which was casually featured in his online 'Ask an Art Critic' column. (Peter Greenaway’s Last Supper at the Armory gets the smackdown: “an aura of failure, unchecked extravagance, and unresolved ideas.” Daaaaang.) But my personal favorite is just watching the man talk about art, as he does in this video, in which he takes viewers on an end-of-year tour of his favorite paintings (tied to a magazine piece that originally ran in August). He makes art fun—and it’s worth it for money quotes such as: “The greatest house coat ever painted in art history.” That's a coat I gotta see.

Michael Kimmelman, New York Times In a loose and jumbly essay, Kimmelman frets that art has merely come to serve as just another bit of tourist escapism for the masses. (“Instead of Esther Williams, it’s Jeff Koons. Instead of Tarzan, there’s Olafur Eliasson.”) He also wonders if there is a culture specific to this recession, before deciding it’s way too early to tell. In other words: He'll get back to you next year.

Thomas Houseago at the Whitney BiennialHoward Halle, Time Out New York If there’s a guy who knows how to give good listicle, it’s Halle, and he comes out with pens blazing on a list of the 'Ten Best and Five Worst shows in New York.' He heaps praise on Abstract Expressionist New York at MoMA (“an astounding reminder of how the city had once been the epicenter of visual innovation”) and even the Whitney Biennial (“a show that actually tried to be cogent”—see the image at right). But it’s his atomic knee drop on the New Museum’s Skin Fruit alone that makes this year-ender worth reading. I don’t want to give it all away, but let’s just say that there’s a reference to the Star Wars cantina scene—and it ain't a good one.

Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times His essay is big picture, tracking larger trends (a rise of museums showing their permanent collections and an art world that seems to be in a state of “suspended animation” due to the poor economy). But he also makes a case for L.A. as a significant model for an art universe that seems to be growing increasingly decentralized. Not necessarily what the New York types want to hear—though the accompanying slideshow may just convince you to book a ticket to SoCal to go see some art.

Paul Laster, Flavorwire A basic top ten list devoted to the best art shows of 2010 is strong on the hipster (Ryan McGinley) and the hallucinatory (Erik Parker) and other stuff that looks good online, including Takashi Murakami's turn at Versailles and David Hockney's iPad paintings. Bonus Head for the nice slideshow, which includes a stunning aerial shot, by Edward Burtynsky, of the BP oil spill, which had to be the big, tragic story of the year. (Aside from Sarah Palin's continued, mystifying influence.) I'm bummed, however, that the multitudinous year-end wrap-ups haven't included mention of photographer Zoe Strauss's documentary project in the Gulf, which was all kinds of stunning.

A still from David Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My BellyRoberta Smith, New York Times Smith opens with a bang, going after the Smithsonian for removing a David Wojnarowicz video, pictured at left, (“heaven forfend that art should challenge people with its intense emotions or with thoughts they don’t already think”), and then takes us on a walk down memory lane, pointing out that participatory art is up, female artists have been well-repped and points ahead to the fact that the financial crisis may not be done throttling the art world yet. Overall, an enjoyable summary. She gets an extra Marina Head just for using the word "forfend."

Paddy Johnson, The L Magazine A standard issue list of '10 Best' and '3 Worst' includes intriguing fare beyond the usual museum and top-end gallery scene—such as the Dump.fm IRL show at 319 Scholes, in which imagery was harvested from the artsy online image chat room and used to create a collective digital work. Put this on my very long list of shows I wish I’d seen.

Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times Okay, so he doesn’t write about art—but I personally love reading his architecture critiques, so Hawthorne makes my year-end list about year-end lists with an insightful essay about architecture’s “Brobdignagian urban dreams.” As in: all that stuff that's big and bloated. An accompanying photo essay is a great primer on the architectural year that was.

Oliver Laric’s 2010 Cliparts at Rhizome Not a year-end round-up by any means, but it seems fitting to end 2010 with a gif of 2010 pieces of clip art. Because there’s nothing like starting the new year with a dose of whoa.

Happy New Year, everyone! And thanks for reading Gallerina.

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Comments [1]

Rosa Lowinger from Miami

gallerina, you are all the art news I need. tAnks for a great year of information.

Jan. 01 2011 11:49 PM

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog C-Monster.net, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net

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