How to be a courteous art critic

Have you ever sat in the audience of a musical and heard someone behind you describe the well-cast lead as “pitchy?” Or perhaps been in a museum where someone nearby ripped a well-liked painting to shreds based on color theory?

 

Or, perhaps, were you the one being a public art critic?

 

It’s only a matter of course that you will have opinions when consuming the art you know so much about. And your training isn’t in vain, it just might make you look a bit vain if you’re vocally demonstrating your personal taste based on absolute fact you have gleaned from your education.

 

There are intelligent, nuanced, personal ways to be an art critic that don’t make you sound like you’re parroting or just plain spouting nonsense. Avoid putting your foot in your mouth by considering the following before making your judgements:

 

The skill level of the performers

Are you at a professional performance with union artists who have hundreds of hours under their belt, or a community theater rendition?

 

Your emotional response to the piece

Sometimes with art, we have an experience or encounter where the piece is present, and this can soften or sour our mood when it comes to the thing. Do you hate Bach, or did you have a professor who loved him - and gave you a bad grade?

 

Personal bias and privilege

As a student of the fine arts, you are in a bit of an elite club. Some art is merely meant to entertain and some is, like your own, on a learning curve and its own journey to greatness. It also may very well not be created by someone who has had your learning experience, lacking technical know-how and mentors to help them perfect their craft.

 

Location and tone

Maybe save your longform critiques and eyerolls for the diner you go to after the show, or the coffee shop down the street from the museum. Respect for the space, the artists, their onlookers and fans are really just common courtesy.