The dangers of amateur arts criticism

Posted on: November 15, 2011

In Tuesday’s (11/15) Huffington Post, Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, writes, “One of the substantial changes in the arts environment that has happened with astonishing speed is that arts criticism has become a participatory activity rather than a spectator sport. … The growing influence of blogs, chat rooms and message boards devoted to the arts has given the local professional critic a slew of competitors. … This is a scary trend. … Most serious arts critics know a great deal about the field they cover and can evaluate a given work or production based on many years of serious study and experience. These critics have been vetted by their employers. Anyone can write a blog or leave a review in a chat room. The fact that someone writes about theater or ballet or music does not mean they have expert judgment. But it is difficult to distinguish the professional critic from the amateur as one reads on-line reviews and critiques. No one critic should be deemed the arbiter of good taste in any market and it is wonderful that people now have an opportunity to express their feelings about a work of art. But great art must not be measured by a popularity contest. Otherwise the art that appeals to the lowest common denominator will always be deemed the best.”

Posted November 15, 2011