Monday, January 21, 2008
Recently, controversy erupted over one of the Village Voice’s critics: Christian Viveros-Faune, who was once a gallery owner and is now an organizer of two commercial art fairs.
Conflict of interest much? Since the problem really blew up last week, Viveros-Faune has severed his ties with the Voice…or the Voice has severed their ties with him (for the whole story check out Tyler Green’s blog: Modern Art Notes). But his tackling of duel roles addresses a distinct problem in the artistic community, that is the collusion between institutions and publications.
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that the two be entirely divorced from one another. In addition to a limited pool of resources—both museums and publications—there are the personal connections. So yes, as a critic or writer, it can be hard to remain objective. It can be even harder to say no. But there is a point where, in a position of power like that of the art critic of Village Voice, one must decide.
In a part of the interview that Green conducted with him, Viveros-Faune said, “...in the art world, because success is so based on inside information and insider relations, I find very few people tell you what they really do think.”
And to a certain extent, I must agree with him; there have been many times, when, for the sake of politeness or professionalism, I have bitten my tongue about the success of a given piece of work, and instead inquired about the technique.
However, on the other hand, one assumes that the Voice (and to a larger extent art publications and regular newspapers) operate within a framework of objectivity and honorability. Art Papers, based in Atlanta, goes so far as to say that even the reviewers whose opinions appear in the back of the magazine cannot own a piece of work, nor have connections to the gallery, or a vested interest in promoting the work of an artist that they are looking at. So to assume a leadership role in an art fair, while at the same time acting as a reviewer, it simply smacks of impropriety.
While it may too be difficult to make a living as an art critic (another point Viveros-Faune brings up to Green), especially on a freelance basis, it brings up the entire question of earning a living in this most diaphanous of fields. Really, what the now-deposed critic was hoping to do was to have his cake and eat it too. While we shouldn’t judge him too hard for trying, we should consider the implications of whom our institutions bed down with and how that shapes the scene.
Now he’s free—just like the rest of us—to start his own blog, perhaps: whatIreallythink.blogspot.com.