Bad News Art Reviews

So long as there are artists, there will be critics. Sometimes they’re nice. Oftentimes they’re not. The following reviews hit like a Mack Truck.


ABOVE: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold – Falling Rock, oil on canvas, circa 1872-77, 23.7 x 18.3 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit,  Photo: © Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit [2014]

Andy Warhol once said, “Don’t read your reviews. Weigh them.” Good advice. Now weigh these:

Ernest Chesneau on the first Impressionist exhibition

“[A young group of painters] has opened an exhibition on the boulevard des Capucines. If they had had the courage of their convictions (or strong enough backs to run and bear the risks) they might perhaps have managed to strike a considerable blow. Their attempt, very deserving of sympathy, is in danger of being stillborn because it is not sufficiently emphatic.” Paris Journal – May 7, 1974

John Ruskin on James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rock’

“I have seen and heard, much of cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas [210 British pounds] for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.” Flors Clavigera – July, 1877

Louis Vauxcelles on Henri Matisse’s ‘Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra)’

“I admit to not understanding. An ugly nude woman is stretched out upon grass of an opaque blue under the palm trees… This is an artistic effect tending towards the abstract that escapes me completely.” Gil Blas – March 20, 1907

Bruno Alfieri on the work of Jackson Pollock

“It is easy to detect the following things in all of his paintings: chaos; absolute lack of harmony; complete lack of structural organization; total absence of technique, however rudimentary; once again, chaos.” Chaos, Damn It! – 1950

Tom Lubbock on Damien Hirst’s exhibition of paintings at the Wallace Collection

“These Hirst paintings… They’re thoroughly derivative. Their handling is weak. They’re extremely boring. I’m not saying that he’s absolutely hopeless. But I’m not saying he’s any good either… To try to be accurate: Hirst, as a painter, is at about the level of a not-very-promising, first-year art student. He is in his mid-forties.” The Independent – October 14, 2009

Meet Me at the McMichael

From Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, to Mary Pratt and the Painters Eleven, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is a who’s who of Canadian Art.


ABOVE: Lawren Harris, Ellesmere Island, 1930, oil on wood panel, 12 x 15 inches, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg

BELOW: The gravestone of Lawren Harris and his wife Bess in the McMichael Cemetary

If you grew up in or around Toronto, chances are you went on a school field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. I recently (re)visited for the first time since childhood.

Established in 1969, the McMichael has an extensive collection that includes some of Canada’s most renowned artists. Whether you’re a fan of Emily Carr or Norval Morrisseau, all the stars are here, and then some.

As outstanding as the art is, so too is the building it is housed, and the grounds on which it is set. You really couldn’t ask for a better spot – it is distinctly Canadian.

Six members of the Group of Seven are buried at the McMichael, among them, my favorites A.J. Casson and Lawren Harris. Visiting their graves was a unique and humbling experience I will not soon forget.

Although the collections most iconic piece – Casson’s White Pine – was inexplicably absent, there wasn’t much else to complain about. Save for the weather, the whole experience was near perfect.

If you’re a fan of Canadian art, or looking to learn more about it, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is a must-visit.

This coming fall, I will be exhibiting my work in the 24th Annual Autumn Art Sale at the McMichael. The exhibition runs from Friday, October 24 to Sunday, October 26, 2014. 

Blogs for Artists

Whatever your interest, the internet’s got it. From tips and tricks, to news and reviews, if art is your thing, you’ll dig the following blogs.


I love art blogs. Here are some of my favorites:


Billing itself as a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today, Hyperallergic pulls no punches – case in point, this review of Jeff Koons at the Whitney.

Art F City

In addition to blunt criticism, Art F City keeps it casual with a section called STUFF. Basically, STUFF is a look inside the lives of artists through their personal possessions. A unique peak inside the creative mind.


With tons of articles on how to launch and grow a successful art or craft business, Aryshark is a valuable resource for artists at any stage of their career. Art + Business is especially useful.


Like Artyshark, Artpromotivate provides lots of free tips on a variety of topics such as art promotion, websites and blogging. You can even get an artist spotlight free of charge.

Edward Winkleman

Gallery owner, curator and author, Ed Winkleman’s blog is a mix of art news, reviews and tips. His Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation is a must read for anyone looking to get signed.


Light on the text and heavy on the eye candy, Colossal goes without the heavy discourse of most art blogs and focuses almost entirely on the inventive. Here are some of the sites top articles.

The Art of Selling Out

Is it really that easy to spot a sell out? Some would say yes. I’m not so sure. There are some strong opinions out there, but easy targets aside, what is a sell out anyways?


ABOVE: 2007 Presidential $1 Coin image from the United States Mint

According to Wikipedia, selling out is:

“The compromising of integrity, morality, authenticity or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money. In terms of music or art, selling out is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience.”

While I do think it’s possible for an artist to sell out, far too often, the term is used to deride the successful and boost the ego of the accuser –  who liked them ‘before’ they were successful.

Truth be told, unless you can read the mind of the artist, you’re not really qualified to call them a sell out.

Only they know for sure.

They have to.


Finding Beauty Underwater

When it comes to beauty, Mother Nature is the worlds finest artist. While she works in many mediums, some of her best creations can be found underwater.


Last weekend, I took a break from the studio and visited Toronto’s newish aquarium (Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada).

I had attempted to visit on Saturday, but the line up was ginormous, and the sun was wicked hot. So instead, I purchased timed tickets for Sunday – at dinner time – and sailed through the turnstiles. The timing could not have been more perfect. Save for a few stragglers, I had the run of the place.

Simply put, this place is spectacular – even with the $30 entry fee. There is a wide selection of creatures great and small, and most importantly, sharks – lots and lots of sharks.

When less crowded, this is probably the most tranquil spot in the city, and if you’ve got a decent camera, it’s a photographer’s wet dream – pun intended.

If you’re looking to add a little beauty to your day, I highly recommend you visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.