Marek Bartelik, president of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA), a UNESCO-affiliated non-profit of close to 5,000 critics writing about contemporary art, says art critics shouldn’t pander to the art market.
“Art critics [should be] independent, and not part of the market like artists and galleries are. They should be critical rather than confirming,” says Bartelik, who is a regular contributor to ArtForum International.
He adds that the AICA creates a platform where critics and artists can express their views free from political interference.
“Art should function independently of politics and artists must express their views no matter how controversial they might be,” he says.
AICA was founded in 1950 to revive art criticism which suffered under Fascisim during World War II. Its stated objectives include protecting the “ethical and professional interests of its members and co-operate in defending their rights” and defending “impartially freedom of expression and thought and oppose arbitrary censorship.”
Bartelik, who holds a PhD in art history and teaches modern and contemporary art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York and lectures internationally, was elected to the position two years ago. He was recently invited to Taiwan by Taiwan AICA, which has 15 active members.
I sat down with Bartelik last month to discuss concerns about the state of contemporary art criticism, AICA’s emphasis on Asia and how China’s possible entry into the organization could marginalize Taiwan.
Taipei Times: What are your goals in coming to Taiwan?
Marek Bartelik: I didn’t come here with a particular agenda. My agenda as president of AICA International is to help places that need this kind of presence in order to foster a stimulating discussion on the current state of art criticism and art. Asia has a rapidly growing contemporary art scene. We should have more representation here. Taiwan has a very visible section, I’m very happy that my colleagues here do a lot of work in terms of assisting the development of a vital art scene. We had a conference here in 2004, which was very successful, as my colleagues who attended it told me. Today AICA wants to reach out to as many places as possible and create a broad outreach in Asia.
TT: China isn’t currently a member of AICA, yet it has a growing number of art critics and its importance on the international art stage has also increased dramatically over the past decade. Have they expressed interested in joining the organization?
MB: Yes, but we haven’t got any specific proposals. It’s being discussed, several of my colleagues have visited China in the last few years, but we have not received any formal request from there to join our association.
TT: And some are concerned that this will affect Taiwan’s status. The concern isn’t so much that Taiwan will be kicked out of AICA as much as that it will be forced to change its name to Chinese Taipei if China joins, as it does, for example, with sports events.
MB: As I said, we don’t have a Chinese section so I don’t want to speculate. All I can say is that from my point of view, Taiwan has a section and it’s as important as the other sections. There is no such thing as first group or second group or third group in our association, in terms of how we make our decisions. Everyone has an equal status within AICA.