Do the art critics travel enough?

What…? Our dear great discoverers, so famous and influential art critics, wouldn’t travel enough? Hey yes, if you consider the choices for exhibitions they valued most in 2011 or which appeared most remarkable, one must admit that, globalization of art or not, local habits die hard.

Yes, the Italian Daniele Perra loved the retrospective of the Bulgarian Nedko Solakov. But it was presented at the Fondazione Galleria Civica of Trento. And it was in Venice that she discovered Serena Vestrucci, who impressed her “with her capacity to question the art system and its mechanisms, without going into the easy provocation other artists make use of”.

For Richard Dorment and Andrew Graham-Dixon, both of the londonian Daily Telegraph, the exhibition of the year could only be “Leonardo de Vinci” at the National Gallery of London. Andrew Graham-Dixon added ” Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World ” at the British Museum and “Degas and the ballet “at the Royal Academy. Richard Dorment added another exhibition at the National Gallery, “Jan Gossaert Renaissance”. His only visits far away from the Thames were to the Paris Grand Palais for the STEIN collections and Musée d’Orsay for Manet: nothing really too adventurous.

Sean O’Hagan, photograph’s critic of The Guardian, privileged the Paul Graham retrospective at Whitechapel – in London again. And his discoveries of the year were also British: Chloe Dewe Mathews; and side painting, George Shaw. So British!

In New York, critics like mainly what takes place in Manhattan. For Roberta Smith, from The New York Times, the exhibitions of the year were the ones of David Hammons at the L&M Arts gallery, of Christian Marclay at Paula Cooper’s Gallery and of Ellsworth Kelly at Matthew Marks Gallery: three North American artists in three New York galleries! But nothing about Maurizio Cattelan at the Guggenheim Museum, which she denigrated. Jerry Saltz, from The New York Magazine, also chose “The Clock”, of Marclay ; he praised then the William de Kooning retrospective at the MoMA and Alexander McQueen at the Metropolitan. But all this does not bring us much away from the East River.

Holland Cotter, also of The New York Times, has a severe judgment on his city: “considering that New York has about 100 art galleries, and considering the hundreds and hundreds of new exhibitions each year, the level of stimulation was low “.

In that case, why not go and visit other places? This is what did Robert Storr, commissioner of the Venice’s Biennial in 2007. His first choice is in New York, but an original one. The most important for him was the opening of Islamic art rooms at the Metropolitan. His other choices are those of a traveler. In London, he was impressed by Gerhard Richter’s retrospective in the Tate Modern – which quoted any British critic… But his best surprise he got it in Bologna, at the Museum of modern art, with videos, performances and installations of the collective Zimmer Frei.

As for another traveller, Philippe Dagen, from Le Monde, his choice went to the Richter retrospective at the Tate Modern, to the Lyon Biennale, to the Max Beckmann’s landscapes at the Basel’s Kunstmuseum, “Dance its life ” at the Paris Centre Pompidou and to Marc Desgrandchamps’s retrospective at the Museum of modern Art of the City of Paris.

I don’t share all preferences expressed by the two last critics, at least regarding exhibitions they indicate and that I visited, but nevertheless I appreciate their openness, especially in contrast to their other colleagues ! Ladies and Gentlemen if you want to be good critics, travel ! Please travel !

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