Insight of “A” Critic; Book Review on ‘A is a Critic’ writings from The Spectator by Andrew Lambirth

“I have never invented anything. I have only, perhaps more than others, shown or brought forward that which is already there.”

Anselm Kiefer, 16 November 1990

Cited from the first page of an RA booklet on Kiefer’s exhibition, words summarize my first impression of art critics. What does it mean to be an art critic rather than a mere journalist, producing some articles for weekend newspapers read by the pretentious and elite art enthusiasts? Well, much to my surprise, whilst roaming through a bookstore in Marylebone this book caught my eye.

The book ‘A is a Critic’ is like a bag of assorted sweets; a collection of interviews with artists and opinions on art related issues and exhibition reviews, all written by Andrew Lambirth, a respected art critic and contributor to ‘The Spectator’ art column. The classification of the book itself could cause a great deal of confusion as I found it lying with biographies of businessmen and politicians, not with the beautifully-printed exhibition catalogues. Maybe the cliché explanation of this misplacement is the almost jokily executed cover art. Its hideous shade of gold and depiction of the art critic in profile almost immediately turns the visual readers away.

However, turning away from the superficial, Lambirth’s neatly executed and humorous lines have a certain magic of transporting readers to the exhibitions or interviews, as if you are in situ seeing the artworks through his eyes, or experiencing the diversity of characters, from Sir Peter Blake to Frank Auerbach, within the action of interview. It is cleverly written in plain English, leaving out elaborate adjectives, and unnecessary sentiment.