Five Types of Art Writer You Should Die Before You See

  Alistair Gentry  
  London, UK  

December 2017

1. The Trollumnist
It's Jonathan Jones doing his weekly Lady Bracknell act, clutching his pearls and shrieking about performance art not being real art, that he's sick and tired of public sculptures, or whatever. It's Waldemar Januszczak deciding one week that three obscure and possibly even fake Caravaggios are the only works of art anyone should ever need even if you require private access to a particular bank vault in Tokyo to really appreciate them like he does, then the week afterwards castigating a living painter for being no Caravaggio, and the week after that angrily puffing his throat sacs out because artists nowadays are more interested in sensationalism than craft– SFX: Record scratch. Cut to Judith sawing off Holofernes' head. They're all in the same business. When they barnacled onto their jobs twenty years ago it was tomorrow's chip paper so they didn't give a shit, nowadays it's clickbait for people who think they're too clever to be clickbaited, so they still don't give a shit. I once witnessed Adrian Searle and Louisa Buck “arguing” during a panel discussion, and the clubby bonhomie between them made me want to puke myself inside out.

2. Anyone on E-Flux
These texts are usually a chimerical assemblage. If it were in fact a creature it would have the head of a yapping chihuahua with incredibly moist and kawaii anime eyes, squealing that it's delighted to announce something that's “special”, “unique”, “important”, it took nine years to research, there's very critically adored artists in it and so on. The tediously elongated torso is misshapen from swallowing huge chunks of still undigested curator speak. It's a provocation, it's reactivating something. Nobody knows with what anomalous appendages this monstrous body terminates, because they never make it that far through an E-Flux email without deleting it. This has a certain resonance with the high likelihood that less than ten people will ever see any given one of the exhibitions announced through E-Flux.

3. The Artbollocks Bingo winner
Anyone who writes that an artist's work is [verbing] between [abstract noun] and [abstract noun]. Usually the artists are oscillating, but sometimes they hover, making them sound like a particularly dull and predictable fairground ride. Normal thing is extraordinary just because an artist made a point of doing it. Related to this, there may be a strong suggestion that there's some kind of inherent interestingness that comes not from anything they've done but merely as a result of the artist being a mother (The Andrea Leadsom Manoeuvre), or part of a sexual or ethnic minority. The artist may not be lucky enough to be part of a group that suffers from systemic inequality and injustice, i.e. they're just a straight, middle or upper class white man, but they're still so unique in their insights that obviously their work sprung forth fully formed and uninfluenced from the void to shatter accepted reality, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Actually what they're saying is usually so obvious it's more akin to it springing forth from the head office of Athena like that poster of the tennis player scratching her arse. Ink the rest of your grid with a steaming pile of International Art English obfuscation, some wilful misunderstandings of fashionable scientific concepts, splatter it with factoids or truisms, and Bob's your uncle who writes for Art Monthly.

4. The artist-academic who has to publish something (anything, actually) to keep their job
Says they're an artist, hasn't made any significant work for twenty years because they're too busy teaching, and before that doing their PhD. Goes to lots of conferences where there aren't any practicing artists, just other arts-academics who spend their whole lives spinning their wheels over subjects of little or no interest to anyone other than whoever at the university is responsible for totting up valid research outputs to keep the place's funding relatively safe. Worst of all, you'll never see a more harrowing or sloppier form of verbal diarrhoea than what comes out of some people who teach art writing at postgraduate level to the next generation of art writers.

5. The Jamie Oliver
Blokey bish-bosh-art-is-done explanation of a complicated subject like conceptual art or transgender issues, luckily it all got sorted out in under forty-five minutes on BBC4, oh hello Grayson Perry I didn't see you there. They think a famous artist flirted with them during the interview, or was at the same parties when they were at art school during roughly the same period and would totally have flirted if they'd known that twenty years later there would be a section on them in a book with a punning title “explaining” contemporary art published by Penguin. Thwack yer egotism and yer fauxletarian race, class and gender privilege into the chiminea on a baking stone, and the writing about art is sorted mate.  s

  Alistair Gentry is a writer, artist and performer.
According to a passing stranger who recently shouted out of a car window, he is also a fucking weirdo.
He is based, divides his time and works.
This interview features in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Sluice magazine.