Art critic Brian Droitcour has started using Yelp to post reviews of museums and galleries. Writing for The New Inquiry, he looks at what this means for criticism and how Yelp reviews can affect museums:
Yelp does a lot of things, including a number things that make people hate it. But one thing it does is provide a platform for vernacular art criticism, a different kind of writing about art and the public spaces where it is seen. Vernacular criticism can reject the guidelines set by cultivated artistic tastes, or it can guilelessly speak in ignorance of them, or in its naive fascination with them can inadvertently expose their falseness. Vernacular criticism is an expression of taste that has not been fully calibrated to the tastes cultivated in and by museums. Vernacular criticism inscribes bodies in public spaces that would otherwise erase them.
Orit Gat wrote about Droitcour’s review experiment last year for Rhizome, specifically looking at how sites like Amazon and Yelp have democratized the “review”:
Are professionally-written art reviews still a resource? The variety of outlets for criticism have made one style of review—the magazine review, published months after the fact—into what one critic has called “the oil painting of art writing.”16 Magazines do provide a larger context—by relating to the history of any particular journal, to other reviews therein, and by a close reading of who-writes-where and a mapping of affiliations—and a sense of continuity and commitment to publishing that few websites can compete with. All these factors point to their usefulness as documents for the future, but the real question is, can they still be relevant in shaping contemporary discourse?
I’d never thought to look at Yelp for anything other than where to get lunch. A quick scan of some museum reviews is endlessly fascinating.