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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Reviewing the Reviews: What Critics Say about Artists: Disrupting the Closed Circle

Disrupting the Closed Circle

Disrupting the Closed Circle Abstract


Artist, activist, and educator Howardena Pindell describes the “closed circle which links museums, galleries, auction houses, collectives, critics and art magazines.” This paper focuses on one of these relationships: galleries and magazines, specifically exhibition reviews. Building on a decades-long history of activism by Pindell and others that confronts the art world with inconvenient truths, the research extrapolates from data previously collected on artists’ gallery representation across race and gender in 2016/2017, and applies this to reviews coverage in that same time period. Questions were as follows: is there a measurable difference in coverage for exhibitions that correlates to the artists’ race and/or gender? Are there specific newspapers and magazines more likely to review exhibitions by women artists and/or artists of color? By isolating and illuminating one of the links in the “closed circle,” the research disrupts the fluid exchange of who is celebrated in the art world through publications and starts to ask some hard questions about why.