The New York Beats used to make a game of walking naked up Fifth Avenue, starting at Washington Square. Whoever got furthest north before getting busted, won. In San Francisco the starting point was the Coit Tower. There's a similar game in the world of high culture: how long can you go before getting called a commie by the New Criterion?

The New Criterion is a journal of a type that would like to believe itself a rarity today:Not so rare, just odd that right-wingers would claim they're Defenders of High Culture and Sophistication. The new critters want you to believe they stand above your usual right-wing Vanity-and-Bombs talk-show host, but as far as good grammar and sophistication go they can't tell a loofah from falafel. Critter-in-Chief and co-founder Hilton Kramer was busy bitching about Jackson Pollock fifty years ago, and he hasn't let up since; there are remarkably few artists of any worth in the past half-century who haven't been dissed by his home-crew. Since the journal's foundation in 1982 the editors have been working their way through their own dictionary of progressive intellectuals and artists like an American wingnut version of the Académie Française, and it's odd they decided to pick on Paul Werner and his book, Museum, Inc. in their April issue, since his name is at the bottom of the alphabet: the New Criterion has been stuck for years on "C" for Chomsky, Noam.

Werner, as the reviewer averificates, is "an ex-employee of the Guggenheim Museum and its infamous director," which is patently false since Werner, who worked nine years as a gallery lecturer for the Guggenheim Museum, never worked directly for its director, Tom Krens, and doesn't pimp for him either. The reviewer wouldn't know a hendiadys if it bit him.

"Rather than a history of the Guggenheim Museum," the reviewer goes on," we get a crash course in symbolic capital, exchange value, and other Marxist slogans." Now that's unfair: "exchange value" is a capitalist slogan, and "symbolic capital" is a Bourdieu-ist slogan, and besides, the word "Marx" occurs seven times in Werner's work and the word "the" occurs 1924 times - so does that make Werner a the-ist? And between a theist and a marxist, does the New Criterion know the difference?

Probably not. New Criterion reviews all read the same. X is a Marxist, so he can't write. Y is a Feminist, so she can't paint. It's a shame, because there are plenty of marxists, feminists and leftist wannabes who can't write or paint or think and who could use some good, destructive criticism and never get it from the New Criterion. Anyone who's incapable of finding substantive negative things to say about Rosalind Krauss couldn't hit the darn boor at ten paces. Then again, New Critter criticism is on the level of "So's your Mom," which stands to reason since its writers are red-diaper babies whose moms forgot to change their diapers around the time Henry Wallace ran for president. The stench is painful. So's the whining. So's the writing.

The reviewer goes on, "In place of a Krens back-story, we learn about the 'Apologist for the Depraved Playthings of Tyranny and Their Sniveling Lackeys','" and he means "behind-the-scene story," not "back-story," and besides, that passage doesn't refer to Krens, it's about the origins of museum ideology in the French Revolution. And it couldn't refer to the reviewer, could it?

Or could it? The reviewer concludes: "[the museum] will survive, thanks to bankers like Morgan, tycoons like Frick.." Hmm... I wonder how the New Criterion survives?

I think we've locatificated your problem, sir.


- Wednesday, May 7, 2008 12:48 pm

















WOID XIV-45. Barnacle Butt