Sunday, December 13, 2009

Negative Art Reviews in the New York Times



The White Columns Annual, which is up through January 9, 2010 and curated by Miriam Katzeff and James Hoff of the art publisher Primary Information, is full of pleasures: a nice Reena Spaulings light box, a video of an uproarious performance by Georgia Sagri, a very sleek John McCracken sculpture, etc.

The greatest pleasure, though, may be a special pamphlet that Katzeff and Hoff have prepared, containing "all the reviews that we perceive to be negative" (to use their words) from the "Art in Review" feature in the New York Times, which runs almost every week on Fridays. Primary Information's zine, delightfully priced at $3, is entitled "It makes me wonder what is next for her and for the economy."

Katzeff and Hoff write, "[W]e noticed the majority of the reviews were either positive or merely descriptive." The "Art in Review" weekly column (which Sharon Butler regularly elucidates) features around five (plus or minus a few) reviews each edition, meaning somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 are published each year. Out of that group, Katzeff and Hoff were able to find 38 that they "perceive to be negative."

The White Columns Annual, which is up through January 9, 2010 and curated by Miriam Katzeff and James Hoff of the art publisher Primary Information, is full of pleasures: a nice Reena Spaulings light box, a video of an uproarious performance by Georgia Sagri, a very sleek John McCracken sculpture, etc.

The greatest pleasure, though, may be a special pamphlet that Katzeff and Hoff have prepared, containing "all the reviews that we perceive to be negative" (to use their words) from the "Art in Review" feature in the New York Times, which runs almost every week on Fridays. Primary Information's zine, delightfully priced at $3, is entitled "It makes me wonder what is next for her and for the economy."

Katzeff and Hoff write, "[W]e noticed the majority of the reviews were either positive or merely descriptive." The "Art in Review" weekly column (which Sharon Butler regularly elucidates) features around five (plus or minus a few) reviews each edition, meaning somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 are published each year. Out of that group, Katzeff and Hoff were able to find 38 that they "perceive to be negative."

As the above graph shows, artists should cross their fingers that Holland Cotter comes to review their show (although, in fairness, he participates with a bit less regularity than the other three and tends to tackle the museum shows of already lauded artists, meaning his number may be artificially depressed). Only Peter Doig (at Gavin Brown / Michael Werner) and Matt Johnson (at Taxter & Spengemann) reviewed negative reviews from Cotter this year, according to Katzeff and Hoff. On the other hand, Karen Rosenberg edges out Ken Johnson and Roberta Smith for crafting the most negative reviews in this year's columns.

All of this leads, of course, to an inevitable, tantalizing question: How did the Times review the Annual? Karen Rosenberg provided a brief mention of it in her year-end gallery guide and writes of Primary Information's efforts: "The art they’ve chosen is aggressive, confrontational and very downtown." I'm going to count that as a positive review.


All of this leads, of course, to an inevitable, tantalizing question: How did the Times review the Annual? Karen Rosenberg provided a brief mention of it in her year-end gallery guide and writes of Primary Information's efforts: "The art they’ve chosen is aggressive, confrontational and very downtown." I'm going to count that as a positive review.

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