Klara Liden, “Pretty Vacant” 2012
Now that it’s early January and the holiday season has dwindled into a plain old winter vortex, I’m back at my desk, hungover from the gigantic amount of “best of” and “predictions for 2015” listicles that have been written in the last few weeks. Did anyone actually read any of these? While writing year-in-review texts has been a perennial form for critics for decades, it seems in recent years–with the rise of online art news platforms–that hastily written “top 10” articles have started to dominate art writing. I can understand why a journalist would be drawn to using this form. Listicles and best-of lists are easy to understand and fast to read and garner a lot of page views (which in turn generates ad revenue). But, being an art writer myself, I know that these articles are oftentimes written to give shout-outs to colleagues and friends, and rarely represent exhaustive research, despite they’re oftentimes confused as such.
Here are a few examples:
ArtReview Power 100 (ArtReview)
Which Five European Museum Directors Are Doing the Best Job? (artnet news)
10 of the Best Artworks at Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 (Artspace)
Europe’s 10 Best Museum Shows in 2015 (artnet news)
25 Art World Women at the Top, From Sheikha Al-Mayassa to Yoko Ono (artnet news)
Best of 2014: Our Top 10 Exhibitions Around the World (Hyperallergic)
Up and Coming: 10 Young Curators Taking on the Art World (Artsy)
Top 10 Contemporary Artists Working With Ceramics (Artsy)
The 2014 ArtNews 200 Top Collectors (ARTnews)
The Greatest Painting in the World: 10 Luminaries Cast Their Ballots (ARTnews)
10 Young Artists To Watch (Harper’s Bazaar)
14 (+2) Artists To Watch in 2014 (New American Paintings)
How do these competitive models effect the way we think about art? I think that it’s human to get caught up thinking about who is the “best” at something (the best young female ceramic artist from New Zealand or the best new cave painter etc.), but I also would hope it’s our task as cultural producers to think outside of normal systems of valuation and judgment that these competitive lists perpetuate. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on this.