From 25 to 27 November in the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg there was held the first Annual International Forum "Art & Reality" organised by Petr Konchalovsky Foundation. The topic of 2011 was the problems of Art Criticism in the contemporary art world. This theme of the first forum attracted heated debates, in which not only professionals and Mass Media, but also art students had the opportunity to express their opinion.
The forum brought together in one hall more than 300 Russian and foreign artists, art historians, anthropologists, experts, critics, curators, gallery owners, dealers, patrons, marketers, representatives of museums, auction and exhibition organizations, journalists and art bloggers, students of art colleges and universities. Tens of thousands have been watching the Forum via the online video broadcast at www.aifaar.com.
We're offering you the chronology of events compiled by the participants - users of the Internet:
DAY 1. November, 25
Session 1. Relationship “Art-Critic”. Philosophical, Historical And Topical Aspects was opened by Andre Dombowski, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Even today, the terms “modern art” and “art critic” seem to be closely interconnected, however Mr. Dombowski reminded that the art criticism dates back to the 18th century when, according to Thomas Crow, an American art historian, “the first generation of writers made it their business to offer descriptions and judgments of contemporary painting and sculpture”. Denis Diderot as an art critic!
Alexandr Borovski, head of Department for the New Movements of the Russian Museum, pointed to the negative impact of the Internet and to the “primitive reactions” to the development of the art criticism.
On contrary, Karen Beckman, head of Department of the History of Arts at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that art criticism should be adjusted to the new reading habits such as information consumption from several sites simultaneously. Another point: nowadays many artists have their own sites where they themselves give a critical evaluation of their work. In this case, where is the place for an art critic?
Andrei Konchaloovsky also condemned the influence of the Internet on the art criticism: the Internet “has exacerbated the dictatorship of the political correctness” that “has castrated the art and science”. Mr. Konchalovsky supports the rebels – Robert Hughes, Tom Wolfe (www.tomwolfe.com) and those who are not afraid to shout that the king is naked
The Special Opinion session started with an improvised report of Marek Bartelik, the recently elected President of AICA USA.
After the video presentation of the educational program run by the Garage centre for modern culture, painter Dmitri Gutov said it was a catastrophe. The program’s director Anastasia Mityushina defended her project. She was backed by Jennifer Francis, head of the press-service at the Royal Academy of Arts who said that mass educational programs were quite common in London. Art criticism – an elite profession or an activity for everyone?
Nina Getashvili spoke emotionally on the changing cultural context in Russia after 1991 and on the need of consensus in the field of the art terminology. This initiated a dialogue between the heads and professors of the educational institutions in the Session 2. Professionalism of an Art Critic.
Olesya Turkina, senior research fellow of the Russian Museum’s department for the recent movements reminded that the liberal education did not need a fuehrer and pointed to the educational institutions of St.-Petersburg as an example – the PRO ARTE Institute and the Faculty of Free Arts and Sciences (the Smolny Institute). They truly can compete with such prominent educational institutions as Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan) and the Ca Foscari University (Venice).
DAY 2. November, 26
The first session of the second day started with the presentation by Julia Kaganskiy, Global Editor of the Creators Project, a large-scale digital art resource:http://thecreatorsproject.com/
Julia believes that art blogging and the traditional art criticism are not implacable rivals and should co-exist in a common environment. She gave impressive statistics: the Internet counts nearly two million users, 152 million blogs and 35 hours of video content are uploaded on YouTube every minute. Obviously, such a gigantic resource cannot be ignored.
Hrag Vartanian thinks that art blogging continues the traditions of the 18th century's art criticism. Again, the Diderot's Salons were mentioned that combined criticism with the anecdotes about the artistic life of that time - why not call it an artistic blog?
Florence Ostende, Chief Editor of the Catalogue online magazine (http://www.cataloguemagazine.com/) and Astrid Mania, former editor of the German version of the Artnet resource, addressed Marek Bartelik asking to draw the AICA’s attention to the necessity to remunerate the online critics and the art bloggers for their work.
In his turn, Marek Bartelik, seemingly referring to the Time Is Money principle asked how one could make the time flow slower that runs so quickly online. Julia Kaganskiy sees the way out in a proper balance between the online and the offline life.
Jennifer Francis tells about what a critic cannot see - the hidden side of an exhibition and the museum's work to prepare it. Meanwhile, we recommed you to visit the Academy's official site (http://www.facebook.com/royalacademy?sk=info) and its Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/royalacademy).
Maxim Kantor, artist, philosopher and writer, made the second report in the Special Opinion session and called to leave the illusions. We continuingly use the words "radical" and "avant-garde" positively, although they now have meanings contrary to the ones they used to have. Over the last 20 years, the art has lost its role in the politics and has turned from a doctor into a chaman, who instead of curing is chanting: the patient will not recover but he is being entertained at least.
The last session for today addresses the problems of the art market that is directly linked to the art criticism. Andrei Konchalovsky spoke pessimistically about the general infantilism dating back to the 1980s that has made the art redundant, put the consumer rather than nature in the center of the artist's interests and made the wish to sell the product the artist's main motivation.
On contrary, Dmitri Khankin, co-owner of the Triumph gallery was optimistic. Having said "the market it's me" he suggested to take the market rules as they are, since they date back to the very first pieces of art and we cannot change them anyway
At the end of the session, participants are trying to answer the question: "What is the main problem is the collision of art and the market?" Agree that there is no conflict, since these are like "the right and left hand."
DAY 3. November, 27
In the today’s morning session, we discuss the art schools of St.-Petersburg whose students have presented their works in the Without Limits exhibition held in the framework of the Forum. So far, most of the questions address the traditional works presented by the Academy of Arts. Elena Klimova representing the Academy emphasized that its students are “first of all taught to paint although it is u...nfashionable anymore”. Andrei Erofeyev, art historian and curator, pointed to the importance of a socially active move in the art referring to the famous work of the Voina (“War”) group and proposing to make this photography to the emblem of the Forum. In response, Gaetano Grillea, artist and professor at the Academia di Belle Arti di Brera, stressed the necessity to make a distinction between the art and politics and the need for the art to pursue its own policy.
In her speech, Nina Getashivili defended the traditional art an reminded that modern artists can also be painters like Hockey, Bazelic or Bacon. We should allow the art to be different and accept its polyphony!
Art critic Andrei Kovalyov emphasized as an art historian that a conflict was the basis for the art of the 20th century. To support pluralism means not to be willing to assume responsibility: "indeed, if I am going to marry, I have to make a choice"
The last session “Recipient of Art Criticism” started with the presentation by Elena Panteleeva, chief editor of the Winzavod Art Review newspaper. Elena shared her experience in communication with the art critics and emphasized that, although initiating the dialogue on art was the core task of the art criticism, a critic should mainly focus on the events and persons and not be guided by the audience. A text accessible for the reader should however serve the needs of enlightenment.
Alisa Lozhkina, chief editor of the ART Ukraine magazine, who started her career as an art critic, pointed to the controversy between these two standpoints and described the situation the Ukrainian art criticism is in. Acute criticism is not enough; there is a lack of thoughtful articles which could help to overcome the nihilistic approach to the contemporary art.
Art critic Konstantin Agunovich shared his main professional horror: social surveys suggest that critical articles are mostly red by women aged 30-35. That is the audience of the art criticism. At the same time, Andrei Kovalyov has seen a very nice young lady read his article in the metro – there is still some hope left.
The idea and the audience are important aspects of the art criticism, but still the authors should be remunerated for their work. Editors tell where they find money for their magazines and what their situation with the author's honorarium is like.
The Petr Konchalovsky prizes 2011 have been awarded to:
• The best “large form” publication on the contemporary art problems: Silvia Burini, Elizaveta Butakova (in collaboration with Sarah Wilson), Carlo Carraro, Vladimir Martynov (in the framework of the interview given to Dmitri Ozerkov), Dmitri Ozerkov, Mikhail Piotrovsky, Mikhail Yampolsky, Dmitri Pirogov and the authors’ collective of the “Art in the Modern World” series.
• The best qualification work of the graduate of a higher educational institution on the contemporary artistic process and the problems of the artistic criticism: Zalina Marshenkulova, “Art Khronika magazine – typological characteristics”.
• The best art blog on the contemporary art problems: Hyperallergic (USA)
• “Artistic comment”: for the series of articles of one author on the modern artistic process – Valentin Dyakonov
Congratulations to the winners! We thank those who have participated in the voting on the last three nominations. We are also looking forward to the new discoveries and the new authors – information on the Prize 2012 will be published on February 1, 2012.
The final session. SUMMARY OF THE FORUM
The guests and participants of the Forum are summing up their personal experience gained over the last three days. Astrid Maria and Karen Beckman have learned about the Russian artistic life what they would never have read in the books or in the Internet. Valentin Dyakonov and Julia Kaganski noted the Russian tendency to deny a phenomenon, be it art market, criticism or something else, rather than try to take the responsibility. In this context, Alexandr Konov, director of the Petr Konchalovsky Foundation responded: we are ready to take responsibility and to hold the Forum in the next year!
See you in 2012!