Great moments in art criticism: losing your bottle

Tuesday 1 November 2005

The wonderful thing about writing up an exhibition of well-known artworks is that not only do you not have to look at it (thus saving you from putting your drink down at the opening), you don’t even have to look at reproductions of it in the catalogue. It’s all been written down for you already! So you can just copy down some other critic’s description of the work in question, and thus tweak your opinions on it to best suit your audience. If it’s a particularly famous work you don’t even have to pretend to be original – you try saying something new about The Scream, smartarse!
The only time this method might come unstuck is if the description you pick turns out to be, in fact, completely wrong. Now the exhibition is open, Adrian Searle might want inspect Les Joyeux Farceurs for himself and ask why a milk bottle has a tube down the middle, and why the milk is transparent and fizzing. Alternatively, he can quote other critics who have actually worked out what the painting depcits.
You’d be amazed how much you learn from a painting by looking at it.