Hard Choices: Should You Be an Art Critic?

When it comes to art, most people know what they like. But few can translate their tastes into words, especially the night before a big paper is due. Your ability to express what you see in an artwork, to explain why it is good, and to examine the ways in which it stinks has impressed your art history professors. After nine years in college, you wonder what it would feel like to have others read your writing. Can the theory-heavy jibber jabber you ingested and regurgitated in graduate school actually be spun into bylines, paychecks, and a platform to tell people what you think and why it matters? This quiz will help to determine if you should start sending cold submissions to your favorite publications or just keep your opinions to yourself. What would you do in these professional situations?

1. A close friend is having a show and they are strongly hinting that you should review it. You:

a. Decline because, ethically speaking, it would be inappropriate.

b. Write a descriptive piece that avoids judgement.

c. Write a glowing review and have the gallery Venmo you a backdoor “thank you.”


2. You have been assigned to review an exhibition at a blue chip gallery by an artist you have no interest in boosting. You:

a. Copy and paste the press release and swap a few synonyms.

b. Pen a scathing takedown of the exhibition that indicts the collusive relationship between magazines and galleries via advertisement sales.

c. Tap into your art history PhD skills to craft an unreadable October-worthy analysis of the 29-year old artist and her puffy paint work.


3. A magical art genie grants you one wish to publish in the journal of your dreams. You ask for:

a. 4Columns

b. Departures magazine

c. Texte zur Kunst


4. The third-best art magazine in the industry finally greenlights a pitch for the next issue. You:

a. Write it for $1/word.

b. Write it for $0.15/word.

c. Miss seeing the email from the editor, never write the article, grow bitter.


5. Jordan Wolfson’s new installation of a manga robot rabbi violating a hologram Boy Scout is stirring up the usual controversy. You:

a. Write a review decrying Wolfson’s boring brattiness and insufferable attempts to get attention with lowest-common-denominator triggers.

b. Compare the sculpture to Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in a rousing and celebratory 15,000-word cover story.

c. Set up an interview with Wolfson but strangely find yourself picking up his dry cleaning and getting stuck with the bill.


6. A brash young artist whose show you panned confronts you during the Q&A of a panel you are on at Frieze. You:

a. Shoot back a witty and withering retort about their mama.

b. Apologize for the cutting, perhaps cynical tone of your article, but stand by what you wrote about their work.

c. Jump off the dais and deliver the artist a two-fisted takedown that leaves them in critical condition.


7. Your editor keeps wanting you to write about collectors, auction prices, and NFTs. You:

a. Write a probing think piece about The Legend of Zelda and the Zabludowicz Collection’s financial ties to a pro-Israeli lobby group.

b. Refuse to write it on the principled grounds that NFTs are dumb.

c. Go to an auction and through a crazy paddle mishap accidentally buy a Beeple for $123 million.


8. People aren’t reading your weekly articles and feedback is scarce on social media. You:

a. Post thirst traps on your Instagram to stir up things.

b. Start a Patreon, Substack, and podcast to hit a cricket-fest trifecta.

c. Create a GIF of Jerry Saltz sleeping on a bed of shriveled 7-Eleven hot dogs that goes viral, making you the new art troll king.


9. You have waited 90 days for a magazine to pay you for a 500-word article you wrote 120 days ago. Feeling frustrated, you:

a. Swear to never write for them again, and then of course write again the next month.

b. Send an aggravated email reminder to all the addresses you’ve ever been in touch with at the publication.

c. Fill out your W-2 form for the ninth time so that the requested payment can once more be processed.


10. After being an art critic for ten years and starving, you decide to:

a. Go back to school for another master’s.

b. Tackle the world of adjunct teaching.

c. Take the Fran Lebowitz route and become famous for not writing.



0–6: Look, art criticism just isn’t for you. A writer possessing your sensitivity and taste level has a much larger audience on a highly trafficked platform called Yelp. Maybe you would rather give up writing altogether, which is always a possibility worth pursuing. If you do forfeit your pen, try considering a career in long-distance truck driving or executive management at a non-profit performance space.

7–12: You have proven adept in a field that requires next to no legitimate qualification or verifiable expertise. People may hate-read your reviews and shun you at social gatherings, but at least they know you well enough to loathe your hot takes and recommendations. Getting published on a regular basis is no small accomplishment, but as you’ll continue to find, it doesn’t pay the bills. Working for a magazine is super cool, but have you ever thought about selling quarter-page ads in their marketing department?

13–18: There are so many mediocre artists and shady dealers out there that we desperately need a blazingly bright critic to illuminate the pathway toward a better tomorrow. This could be you, but only if you don’t get caught up in all the free dinners and toadying that comes from those who would benefit from your critical largesse. True insight is transformative, and your fresh perspective may finally bring back clarity and order to an art world rife with wordy academics, blithering boomers, and moany millennials.

Take this quiz and tally your score to see if you’re ready to activate the discourse.Read MoreArt in America, Features, Art Criticism, Chen & Lampert, quizARTnews.comRead More

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