Sarah Kent writes in the Guardian about the experience of judging a prize for criticism which underscored the erosion of criticism as a vocation:
The experience was shocking not just because the quality of the writing was so high, but because of the frustration expressed by many of the applicants and the air of desperation that emanated from their submissions. […] Far from being disgruntled wingers, these are committed writers eager to make a difference, yet in each case, the stories they told paint a dismal picture of a profession in crisis.
Worse, Kent fears that the constraints on budgets and time, have softened critics up, made them easy prey for marketing and manipulation:
hostility has given way to admiration. Art is so fashionable that high profile exhibitions attract more punters than football matches. This is good news for museums desperately short of funds, but bad news for critics. Box office returns are of paramount importance, so to ensure a good press, galleries micro-manage media response. At press views, the curator will often take a hoard of hacks on a tour of the exhibition and tell them what to write – they traipse off to file obsequious reports scarcely having glanced at the show, and everyone is happy.
Why does this matter? Because adulation is as poisonous as neglect. The arts thrive in a climate of lively and informed debate; emerging artists need the endorsement of an intelligent response and successful artists, under pressure to churn out more of the same, need encouragement to risk failure by trying something new.
Art critics matter only if they engage (Guardian)