Home » The Role of the Art Critic, 1966

The Role of the Art Critic, 1966

The other day I found a number of old Canadian Art magazines on sale for $2 each. I bought them, and found this questionnaire in the April 1966 issue. It’s interesting, reading over the questions how some remain relevant today and others, not so much…

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My vintage copies of Canadian Art. Image: VoCA

On the following page were answers to some of the questions by the leading artists of the day, including Jean McEwen, Clive Daly, Guido Molinari, Doris McCarthy, Joyce Wieland, Christopher Pratt and Iain Baxter. I’ll reprint some of their answers in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your replies to some of the questions. Pick just one, or several and comment below!


Button created by Iain Baxter’s N.E. Thing Company Ltd. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Active 1966-1978. Image: flickr.com

1. Do you think art criticism can be useful? If yes, to whom especially?

2. What should art criticism contain?

3. What do you feel is the role of the art critic today?

4. In your opinion, what constitutes the minimum training, academic or otherwise and experience in the visual arts that would equip a critic to fulfill his role?

5. Assuming art criticism has some value, in which of the following media is art criticism most necessary? (Check one only)
a. Newspapers
b. Quarterlies
c. Television
d. Art magazines
e. Radio
f. Other (specify)

6. Art criticism should be directed to reach (check as many of the following as you believe necessary)
a. Artists
b. Museum and public gallery executives
c. Private collectors
d. Other (specify)
e. Other critics
f. Students
g. The general public

7. Do you feel that sound critical reviews (good or bad) have an influence on artists’ work and its direction?

8. Do you feel that sound critical reviews have an influence on the buying public?

9. Do you feel that sound critical reviews have an influence on art appreciation generally?

10. Whether incompetent criticism praises or condemns, do you believe that unsound critical reviews ultimately damage and artist with his public? If so, why?


Guido Molinari, Sérielle bi-bleu 1967. Image: canadianart.ca

11. Do you believe that unsound criticisms can damage and artists future work? Or his ability to produce work at all?

12. Whom do you consider to be a competent critic(s) of contemporary art, writing anywhere in the world today? For what publication or other media does he/she write?

13. Do you know of any competent critic(s) in Canada?Who? Where and for what publication or other media does he/she write?

14. Do you know of anyone in Canada today who could (or who should) be writing art criticism but is not doing so at the present time? If yes, who?

15. It has been said that criticism in Canada is too kind and generous in the effort to encourage and promote the arts in this country. Do you think this is true?

16. If you have answered yes to the foregoing question, do you think that an informed, candid criticism (regardless of whether it may be highly complimentary or totally devastating) would be preferable for the healthy development of art in Canada?

17. Taking into consideration your own views on criticism and the current situation of the arts in Canada (including the availability of competent critics), would you choose to see critical reviews or straight, objective reports of shows and interviews accompanied by good photographs and the dimentions of the work photographed?

18. Which do you find of more value? (please check one)
a. Criticism of individual shows of artists work
b. Critical articles discussing trends in contemporary art

19. Is there any validity to such a concept as ‘Canadian’ art? Or ‘British’ art, ‘French’ art, ‘German’ art, etc?

20. Please list any publications you can name devoted to such national art concepts, with the name of the country whose art they attempt to define and record.


Joyce Wieland, Reason over Passion, 1968, quilted cotton. Image: virtualmuseum.ca

21. Do you read any art magazines? If so, which ones (AC – altered from original question)

22. What other publications do you read? (AC – altered from original question)

23. Other comments

2 Responses to “The Role of the Art Critic, 1966”

  1. Rodney says:

    15. no.

    In Canada “art criticism” misses the point. Art in this nation requires promotion, support and criticism. In these years of government cuts to the arts demonstrates the failure of promotion and support.

  2. #4
    Peter Schjeldahl (columnist for the Village Voice, contributing editor for Art America, art critic New York Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, currently senior art critic for New Yorker Magazine) speaking at Boston U recently, said “I’m a college drop-out. I mean I have a high school diploma. and my highest academic achievement. And I think I slept through most of the classes I attended. “

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