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from the Guest Editor

This special issue of the Brooklyn Rail introduces AICA (the International Association of Art Critics), founded in Paris as a non-governmental organization affiliated with UNESCO in 1949, to a broader audience in the United States and elsewhere.

AICA into the Age of Globalization:
from Gentlemen’s Club to Universal Fellowship

The International Association of Art Critics (AICA) was conjured into being, like a rib from its parent body, UNESCO, which had been established in 1945, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.

Unfolding the Archives of James Johnson Sweeney

A large white envelope addressed to the headquarters of AICA International at 32 rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, stamped “Documents only,” was mailed from New York on April 27, 2010. Last March, during my visit to the French capital to attend our annual administrative meeting, I found that envelope on a bookshelf in our office, stuck between two exhibition catalogues.

Reaching For Our Revolvers:
How a United Europe Defused its Culture and Divided its People

As the Iron Curtain was coming down, Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Double Life of Véronique (1991) not only elegantly captured the emotional impact of Europe’s post-war division but also conveyed a brooding angst about the promised “European Union.”

“A Story about a Culturally Relocated Person”
Speech by Ilya Kabakov at the 28th IAAC/AICA Congress in Stockholm, Sweden (22 September 1994) (Extracts)

The circumstances of my appearance at this podium are fairly remarkable. Not thinking or even contemplating such a thing, I unexpectedly receive the news that I am supposed to speak at this Congress and that I have been “chosen” to do so.

Peripheral Gaze in the Middle of Everything

For starters, I have to confess that as a European art professional I am ashamed of how little I know about European art criticism, and even European contemporary art at large.

Art Criticism in Europe Today
Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson ask Nina Power

Art criticism and the making of art are inextricably intertwined. The whole system depends upon a set of relations that link art materials to artistic production to art promotion to art criticism to the market.

Recollections from the Congresses

Distinguished Polish art historian, professor Juliusz Starzyński, one of the five founders of the Polish section of AICA in 1955, came up with the subject and the program of the 1975 AICA Congress in Poland.

My Expanding Photo Album

“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known,” (Oscar Wilde). AICA is about individuals, who happen to practice art criticism.

AICA in Europe

This was the summer before the Velvet Revolution: Vaclav Havel was in jail, Jan Urban was riding around on a bicycle in disguise, men in trench coats were threatening to shut down the exhibition. My first trip behind the Iron Curtain was surreal and fascinating.


Report from Portugal

There is significance in the number of events in Portugal that are focused on the area of artistic creation, which is one of the preferential fields of production in contemporary art. One could imagine an artwork empty, considering its temporal synchronicity, but that rarely happens.


Susana Gaudêncio interviews Lígia Afonso

Art critics are now coming from areas such as journalism, music, philosophy of aesthetics—areas that could allow for a greater complexity of references and arguments concerning the art object.


Report from Ireland

When James Johnson Sweeney curated the first international exhibition of late Modernism here in 1967, which later became known as ROSC, he decided not to include any art from Ireland after 800 A.D. He was attempting to reconnect the island to the ancestral visual civilizations on the continent of Europe, as a different starting point than the late modernism inherited from a contested and all too problematic colonial history.


Questions by Alan Phelan to Ciarán Bennett

I would like to say that there is a direct line of literary brilliance between Baudelaire as the first modernist art critic and poet, and Derek Mahon, the most significant Irish poet of the second part of the 20th century.

United Kingdom

Criticism: a U.K. perspective

Recently, I served on the jury of the coveted London-based Arts Foundation Award for arts journalism and it was a sobering experience. I was shocked not just because the quality of the writing was so high, but because of the frustration expressed by many of the applicants and the air of desperation that emanated from their submissions.

United Kingdom

10 Questions
From Phyllida Barlow for Sarah Kent

Critics perform various tasks from reviewing exhibitions, to writing monographs, delivering lectures, and contributing essays to books and catalogues. In each case, the constraints differ, but favorable comments are generally more welcome than negative ones and in some cases are obligatory.


Contemporary Art Criticism in Spain: A Recent History Survey

The present situation of art criticism and the whole contemporary art ecosystem in Spain can only be well understood in the wider context of the evolution and development of Spanish media-related art criticism during the last 35 years.


Art and Thought in Difficult Times

The mass demonstrations and political actions of a large part of the Catalan population have set in motion a process to allow citizens to vote on whether Catalonia will gain independence from Spain and becomes established as a new European state.


A Conversation between Núria Güell and Joan M. Minguet on Art, Thought, and Commitment

A constant concern in my projects is that of expanding the limits of the art institution, colluding with it, using its infrastructure—human, legal, financial, etc.—and legitimating it according to the requirements of each project.


The Art Scene and the Art Critic in France: A Bird’s Eye View

In this extremely brief overview, I will outline in five points the current situation of contemporary art in France, and the prospects that it offers for the art critic.


Raphael Cuir Interview by Tania Mouraud

Today, we have perhaps lost sight of the central issues of art criticism. With the weight and importance of the art market, we are expected to believe that we no longer need criticism. In fact it’s entirely the opposite.


Cross-over for the Luxembourgish Art Scene

In 1995, the city of Luxembourg was the European Capital of Culture. The following year, a building situated in the city center was refurbished to host, from then on, the Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art Contemporain, and, as early as 1998, the Manifesta 2 events.


On Criticism
Sophie Jung with Lucien Kayser

For as long as aesthetics was kept within strict limits, say until the end of the 19th century, when works had to comply with a set of rules, a proper canon inherited from the Greek ideal of beauty with equivalent values for both truth and justice, criticism was (only) the art of judging, of giving an opinion about compliance.


The Swiss Art Scene and the Role of the Art Critic

To map the situation of the artistic production in Switzerland in relation to the art critic, you could limit the survey to publications in newspapers, dailies, weeklies, monthlies, and quarterlies. It is more relevant, though, to adopt a wider point of view, looking at all the institutions, associations, and galleries that support contemporary art.


In Conversation:
Philippe Fretz with Patrick Schaefer

As far as I am concerned, I prefer to describe an exhibition and highlight its distinctiveness. Unfortunately articles are very often written before the opening of the exhibition, so that they have to be general rather than content specific.


Report from Italy

Italy is one of the countries richest in artistic heritage: it is an incomparable resource, something that has become part of the cultural DNA with the potential to lend tremendous vitality to the present. At the same time, there is a risk of this past becoming a burden.


Jorrit Tornquist interviews Anselmo Villata

Certainly we often tend to analyze specific issues concerning art and its production not only because we have reached a very high and refined level of research from the artistic side and analysis from the critical side, but also because of the amount of information we receive from this world, which today has become extremely wide and varied.


Artist Katya Gardea Browne Interviews Critic Ludwig Seyfarth

It’s difficult to give a general answer to this question. Mainly I like art that is concerned with the real problems of the world, that shows a personal viewpoint and has an emotional impact. I also think all good art has to be convincing in its form and aesthetics.

Czech Republic

Where Art is Always Starting Anew
Czech Artists Between the Local and International Art Scene

One can find the Czech Republic, perhaps with some difficulty, in the middle of the European continent. One will have an even harder time finding it on a map of contemporary art. Czech artists do not form a strong and visible lobby.

Czech Republic

Criticism Continues to Lag Behind Art
Czech Artist Dominik Lang with Critic Tomáš Pospiszyl

After 1989, Czech art opened itself up to the world. Foreign curators and galleries have been hunting in the Czech art scene a little like archeologists—unearthing some artists while leaving others to rest in peace.


On the Danish Contemporary Art Scene and Art Criticism

The last 15 years have been described as one of the richest periods in the history of Danish art, a new “Golden Age” of talent and expression that is garnering increasing attention from the global art world. But regrettably the visual art is more and more invisible in the mass media.


Questions to the Danish Art Critic Lisbeth Bonde
Posed by the Danish Artist Mikkel Carl

Two important parameters have changed radically from the time when I started as an art critic until now and both have had an impact on how the Danish art critics perform. First, the Internet revolution and second, the explosion of the Danish art scene with regard to the number of talented young and mid-career artists on the scene.


Art Criticism in Norway

Art criticism is always performed within a certain context. I will therefore start this overview with a short presentation of the Norwegian art world, before addressing the activity of art criticism.


Between Lotte Konow Lund (artist) and Kjetil Røed (critic)

Usually, one tends to say that it is about distinguishing between good and bad; man, that is imprecise. Art criticism is about examining why the art works or not. An “exemplary consumer”—in the sense of being a model—is another name I have given to the role of the critic.


Report from Sweden

In late March a strange letter was sent to a couple of culture editorial offices in Stockholm. It claimed to be written by the street artist Banksy, and announced his presence near the gallery cluster on Hudiksvallsgatan [known as Stockholm’s Chelsea] in the northern part of the inner city.


Annica Karlsson Rixon interviews Ulrika Stahre

Sometimes I feel that I am terribly close to imitating that kind of “art walk” common several decades ago. Then I tell myself to quit. And sometimes the slightly introspective criticism of the ’90s dwells somewhere in the back of my head, demanding attention.


Looking at the Vivid Local Art Scene through the Huge Change of the Media

This winter and spring in Helsinki there have been shows, mostly featuring local artists. They lasted three to four weeks. They have included museum exhibitions of internationally recognized artists, such as Alfredo Jaar, presented at Kiasma, and Jean Tinguely, at the Amos Anderson Art Museum.


Photographer Jaakko Heikkilä with Marja-Terttu Kivirinta

I have written criticism for more than 30 years. Although the idea of art criticism is still the same—it should be analytical and critical—during that period the reviews have changed. And now I talk about newspaper journalism, my professional background.


The Current State of Art Criticism in Poland

The famous Polish writer Tadeusz Konwicki once said that there is only one section of the newspapers that is more boring than obituaries—the art reviews. This is not to say that he was not interested in art.


Katarzyna Kozyra with Dorota Jarecka

To be an art critic is to assume an authoritarian position. The whole idea of making judgments is based on power, which is typical for modernity. And I think that the role of an art critic is dying down simply because modernity is dying down. Can a critic’s use of power verge on abuse?


When We Idolize Art

Art criticism in Slovakia is arguably reminiscent of a laboratory in which individual experiments, independent of each other, are pretty much predictable based on an awareness of the evolution and patterns of critical thinking and how it is put into practice in Western countries.


Juraj Čarný with Stano Masár

I define and re-define the criteria over the course of my curatorial preparations for an exhibition. The beginning of my curatorial work was linked to an absence of gallery institutions, in Bratislava particularly, and Slovakia in general.


Hungary—A Post-Socialist Conflict Zone

After the election in Hungary, carefully tailored to be favorable for the ruling party, nothing can stop FIDESZ, a conservative, right-wing party, from completing the creation of a retrograde, ethno-nationalist state-system with semi-feudal, semi-socialist features, the foundation of which had been laid down during the previous four years.


Artist Szabolcs KissPál in conversation with art critic Edit András

After 1989, in most of the post-state socialist countries of the region—Romania, Slovakia, and Poland—a considerable amount of artistic practice reflected on the past and the period of transition both from social and historical points of view.


Report from Croatia

Among Croatia’s 4.26 million citizens, weary from the long economic crisis, the widespread opinion is that visual art is one of the nation’s most successful cultural exports.


Kata Mijatović with Branko Franceschi

Art has always had the same function, from the beginning of time until the present. I think of art as a form of cognitive activity that reflects how we resonate with the universe and, of course, society through symbols and visual codes. That is the function of art in its existential sense—it helps the survival of humankind.

Rep. of Macedonia

Report from Macedonia
On a City between two “spectacles”

Skopje, the Macedonian capital, has drawn global attention twice over the last 50 years—the first on account of the devastating earthquake in 1963 in early days of television, and again recently with the controversial project Skopje 2014. These two events have been crucial for both the development of arts and the quality of urban life.

Rep. of Macedonia

Velimir Zernovski interviews Mira Gakina

We are in a hole for survival, we hide from a “great danger.” You are solely interested in this moment. Transition is here, commenced a long time ago in the very complex conditions of a protracted and painful dissolution of the Yugoslav system.


Polyna Kosmadaki with Danae Stratou

As an artist, it is not often that I have the opportunity to be the one asking the questions and so, when invited by Marek Bartelik to participate in this special issue of the Brooklyn Rail, in which artists get the chance to “interrogate” those who write about our art and ask us questions about it, I jumped at the opportunity.


At the End of The Longest Decade

Bulgarian art has been going through a retrospective period in the past few years, a phase that comes across as overly nostalgic when compared with the 1990s. And indeed it looks as though the ’90s are still here.


Luchezar Boyadjiev interviews Svetlana Kuyumdzhieva

I think judgment is what makes the difference between an art critic and an art writer. And by the same token there are people who would say that I’m the only art critic in Bulgaria.


The Art Scene and Art Criticism in Romania

In comparison with the Communist era, the 25 years of regained freedom of expression in Romania have brought major changes to our art scene. There were phases of this process: the ’90s differ from what came after 2000. Throughout these phases, various evolutions have contributed to defining a remarkably complex visual culture.


Artist Iosif Kiraly Interviews Critic Adrian Guta

I first felt attracted to art criticism when, as a student in my final year (1978 – 79), I was asked to observe the evolution of the diploma projects of colleagues in the painting, sculpture, and graphic arts departments—I eventually chose graphic arts—and to write an essay with my conclusions.


Kiev, April 29, 2014

Today it is impossible to talk about Ukraine without acknowledging the Maidan protests. Making art about Maidan seems logical, even lucrative, but I am suspicious of exhibitions and objects being produced now that claim to be authoritative reflections of events that are so fresh in our collective memory and have not yet reached any conclusion.


Artist Anna Zvyagintseva Interviews Art Critic and Curator Arina Radionova

I’m working and have some money “for life,” but not from work in the art sphere. But there is a chance to make money with art, not by selling art objects, but by writing about exhibitions and famous artists.


The Contemporary Art Scene in Turkey

Two channels offer insight into the development of contemporary art in Turkey. The first is the impact globalization has had on the Turkish art scene; and the second, the transition between social sciences and art in the context of postmodern discussions.


The Actual Art Scene in Russia

The current art scene in Russia could be characterized as one with many different modes of artistic expression. Here, many institutions are specifically focused on research and organizing exhibitions of contemporary art.

January 6, 2004

I begin to feel a slight apprehension as to what this picture will look like. Will I look ugly? Will I look old? Facing up to the facts of life, such as aging and mortality, are precisely the point of Lucian Freud’s type of painting—of course, we applaud it in Rembrandt, but I am not sure how I feel about the policy when it is applied to myself.

Angus Stewart on The First Georgians: Art and Monarchy
Exhibition in the Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace

In 1987, after a lengthy verbal tussle, the gentleman-scholar Sir Brinsley Ford and the American philanthropist and collector Ian Woodner accepted that William Hogarth (1697 – 64) had the status of an artistic founding father on both sides of the Atlantic.


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