Art Criticism Online: A History

(forthcoming 2017 Gylphi)

Art critic Jerry Saltz is regarded as a pioneer of online art criticism by the mainstream press for ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking’ his art commentary (Neyfakh, 2010; Crow, 2014). Certainly there are an increasing number of apparently successful online art critical entities, which include Modern Art Notes (blog est. 2001 podcast est. 2010) ArtFCity (est. 2005) and Hyperallergic (est. 2009). Yet there has been concern over a certain crisis within art criticism as shown by numerous public discussions (ICA, 2011; Witte de With, 2012; AIAC, 2013) and publications (Elkins, 2003; Rubinstein, 2006; Plagens, 2007; Elkins and Newman, 2008). The internet has been blamed as widespread access to instant self-publishing allows anyone to be a critic (Westbury, 2010; Myers, 2013) and devalues the role of the educated, professional art critic (Heartney, 2006; Panero, 2010). It is only very recently that articles (Gat, 2013; Jansen, 2015; Williams, 2015) and events (Walker Arts Center and MNArts 2015; Rhizome 2016) have been staged in order to explore the specific nature of art criticism after the internet. Yet all these discussions imply that online art criticism is a product of the read-write/web 2.0/social media age. Far preceding the art discussions happening on the likes of Twitter and Facebook were networked art projects and art critical Bulletin Board Systems, email-based discussion lists and blogs. Although there have been studies of independent print-based arts publishing, online art production, and electronic literature, until now there have been no histories or in-depth analyses of online art criticism. Art Criticism Online: A History, the forthcoming book by Charlotte Frost provides a history of art criticism after the internet. Frost asserts that there have been three ages of online art criticism: the first used pre- and early-internet protocols to extend the experimentation happening in independent galleries and publications; the second was characterised by a boom in email-based discussion lists and an intense critique of digital culture; and the third, which we are currently witnessing, sits atop and reflects the fast and furious culture of social media exchange. Throughout the book Frost provides examples of the live, networked and participative nature of online art discussions and shows how, rather than in crisis, art criticism is experiencing a resurgence and even a return to its independent roots.