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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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    By kyle | January 16, 2009

    A strange New York Times obit on Andrew Wyeth is mostly concerned not with Wyeth, but with the allegedly vital critics who didn’t like him. Are critics really more important that artists? That’s a bit like saying barnacles are more important that the ship. Art critics in particular are of little interest since ordinary people have long since stopped reading what they have to say. For me, “Christina’s World” is a devastating portrait of loneliness that is the equal of anything in Hopper, another great painter.

    Topics: Art | 11 Comments »

    11 Responses to “Goodbyeth”

    1. Louis Torres Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 12:15 am

      The Times obit on Wyeth is indeed strange, but then so is its writer, chief art critic, Michael Kimmelman. Andrew Wyeth was the greatest painter of the twentieth century, something Kimmelman would not understand.

    2. Hunter Tremayne Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 5:12 am

      Wonderful artist. And yes: critics are a waste of space.

    3. John Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 11:39 am

      Lawyer and author John Mortimer died also.

    4. shangui Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 11:58 am

      In fact, aren’t film critics essentially the *only* critics that “ordinary people” read any more? Of course this is partly because Danielle Steel books don’t get reviewed in the major media while their filmic equivalents do.

      I wonder if there was ever a time when “ordinary people” did pay close attention to what art critics said. I rather doubt it. We tend to see the past through the eyes of writers writing about their peers and thus think people were more intellectually engaged in the past than they really were.

    5. K Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      I thought it was a pretty interesting piece. Not as an obit, perhaps, but as a discussion of realist vs non realist art and the role of critics in setting the boundaries of that discussion.

      I wonder if there was ever a time when “ordinary people” did pay close attention to what art critics said.

      In a truly egalitarian society, your point would be valid, but in an era of government funded art, academics and the connected are more important arbiters of taste than the “ordinary people”.

    6. shangui Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

      K– I’m not sure what you mean by “a truly egalitarian society” (though I would not like to live in the types of societies to which such a term is usually applied). It really depends on what you mean by “taste.” No art critic is going to say anything good about Thomas Kinkade (and for good reason), but he’s far more successful in every other way than almost any other living artist, and certainly more than any artist who depends on gov’t funding to any substantial degree.

      Academics or their equivalent have always been arbiters of taste for a certain part of the population, but never for the greater part of the population.

    7. kyle Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

      I don’t think critics are a waste of space as long as they retain some sense of what standards are for a large group of people. Critics who write only for other critics and a tiny group of insiders–art critics fall into this category, as do a lot of music critics–get the audience they deserve. But a critic is nowhere near as important as an artist.

    8. K Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 3:50 pm

      I’m not sure what you mean by “a truly egalitarian society”

      My bad. I should have said a society where the marketplace of ideas is not distorted by money essentially allocated by a small politically connected clic.

      Add: In the present circumstances, critics like Kyle are important. Again going to the market analogy, Kyle is like a consumer advocate. Someone has to warn of the artistic and political cowpiles which too often litter the art scene.

    9. shangui Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      Kyle– I generally agree, but I don’t see any problem with critics who write only for other critics so long as they understand this (and I realize that’s a big qualifier). I think there’s plenty of room, especially with the decentralization allowed by the internet, for these different groups to peacefully co-exist. Hyper-specialization always has and always will create its own standards, and they’ll never be popular ones. They can still be very interesting, however.

      K– I agree that Kyle plays an important role for a certain audience that generally (but certainly not always) feels that his tastes in films are similar to their own. Someone who writes for a high-brow academic film studies journal is just as important, just for a smaller audience with different tastes.

    10. GOETHE’S DEAD: | The genuine priest survey. Says:
      January 17th, 2009 at 6:11 pm

      […] Andrew Wyeth Dies […]

    11. kishke Says:
      January 18th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

      Quite a lot of the obit deals with Wyeth’s life and work. And the critics are cited to illustrate the highbrow-lowbrow disagreement over his work. I don’t think it’s all that strange. It actually made interesting reading.