Symposium: The Art Review: Most Wanted, Most Neglected

06.05.2017, 13:00-19:00
Symposium: The Art Review: Most Wanted, Most Neglected
Eintritt frei

Kunsthalle Zürich
Limmatstrasse 270
CH-8005 Zürich

Tel: +41 (0) 44 272 15 15
Fax: +41 (0) 44 272 18 88


The one-day symposium focuses on the crisis of the art review. How do we deal with the most wanted and at the same time most neglected form of writing within the art world? The current situation will be assessed in talks and panel discussions. 

Organised by Kunsthalle Zürich in collaboration with Pro Helvetia and Office for Contemporary Art Norway, in dialogue with Critical Writing Ensembles.

Hosted by LUMA Westbau

Current schedule:

1:00 Welcome by Daniel Baumann (Director and Curator Kunsthalle Zürich)

1:30 Introduction by Marianne Burki (Head of Visual Arts Pro Helvetia, Zürich), Diana Campbell Betancourt (Chief Curator Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka), Katya García-Antón (Director Office for Contemporary Art Norway, Oslo)

2:00 Keynote lecture by Mike Sperlinger (Professor of Writing and Theory, Oslo Academy of Art)

2:45 Coffee break

3:00 Lecture by Belinder Dhanoa (writer and artist, Delhi)

3:45 Lecture by Mustafa Zaman (artist and writer, Dhaka)

4:30 Coffee break

4:45 Lecture Ellinor Landmann (Editor for Culture, Swiss Radio and Television, Basel)

5:30 Panel discussion with Crritic (Daniel Morgenthaler, Aoife Rosenmeyer; both Zurich) and Brand-New-Life (Lucie Kolb, Judith Welter; both Zurich), moderated by Julia Moritz (curator, Zurich/Berlin)

6:30 Apero/Launch PROVENCE magazine (Tobias Kaspar, artist, Riga)


Critical writing is an initiative which was started by Pro Helvetia in Switzerland in 2013 with a series of workshops with various writers. One strand developed into The Critical Writing Ensemble, curated by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, focusing on South Asia and planning to expand. The other strand developed as Crritic! touring across Switzerland over the last couple of years. Leading on from these iterations, Kunsthalle Zürich will host a day of presentations and discussions on art criticism through the lens of the review, taking place on Saturday, May 6, 2017, within the context of its current exhibition Speak, Lokal (on view through May 7, 2017).

This group show at Kunsthalle Zürich focuses on how artists worldwide investigate and broach local conditions and their ambiguity. The highly contested territory of the Local is perceived both, as a place of autonomy and liberation – mainly by way of precision – and, at the same time, an instance of nationalism, provincialism, and commercialism; in short: a powerful fiction.

The symposium takes place on the final weekend of this exhibition, a moment of conclusion – and review. This symposium focuses on the genre of the review in art criticism, as it harbors a similar potential of both liberty and rigor, as much as insularity and capital. Art reviews are also mourned as a vanishing format in the ever tougher media-market of art. And yet it is precisely through the lens of the review – its specific demand and supply within public relations(hips), and the particular activity of reviewing as a critical practice – that broader questions of contemporary art criticism may best be addressed:

How to speak about art today? How to write for the here and now? How to simultaneously look back and/or elsewhere? And how to imagine the review of tomorrow – or to prepare it consequentially – an inevitable institutional responsibility of the future?

“I never met anybody who said when they were a kid, I wanna grow up and be a critic.” – is a quote by comedian Richard Pryor which serves to announce PROVENCE magazine’s final issue Criticism Now, to be launched on the special occasion of this symposium. True for curators too, we think, and invited two teachers of writing: Interested in artists undermining the distinction between artwork and critical commentary, Mike Sperlinger’s (Oslo Academy of Art) keynote lecture will introduce the notion of re-viewing alongside various historical reference; Belinder Dhanoa (Ambedkar University, Delhi) will share her rich and diverse insight into the intersections of art writing and art making subsequently.

Initially trained as a printmaker, also Mustafa Zaman’s art practice has become closely intertwined with art journalism. We’ll be eager to hear about the nuances in form and content from Bangladesh. While Swiss Radio editor Ellinor Landmann’s will expand the usual limitation of discussions on art criticism to word and image (print) towards the particular possibilities of radio reviews (sound); and Lucie Kolb and Judith Welter will tell us about the brand new possibilities of digital art reviewing (multi media), as is the challenge of, or quality in general.

The concluding panel discussion will be opened by Daniel Morgenthaler and Aoife Rosenmeyer who, by the name of Crritic!, are challenging themselves with workshops for a better exchange between art critics. They did it with us, in preparation to this symposium – and would like to discuss, with you!


Daniel Baumann is the Director and Curator of Kunsthalle Zürich. His current exhibition Speak, Lokal provides the framework for this symposium and will be on view for the second to last day during the event.

Brand-New-Life was founded in 2015 by Lucie Kolb, Pablo Müller, Barbara Preisig and Judith Welter in Zurich. Brand-New-Life is an online magazine for new perspectives in art criticism and onto current art activities and their imbrication into political and social contexts. Lucie Kolb is an artist and writer, Judith Welter is the Director Kunsthaus Glarus, both are co-editors of the magazine. They live and work in Zurich, Glarus and Vienna. The concluding discussion of this symposium will feature their presentation of brand new possibilities in online art reviews.

Crritic! was a series of events about art criticism in Switzerland. It sought to generate encounters between authors and readers of Switzerland’s various regions about the current states of writing about art in order to establish an affluent and active community in the field. Crritic! has been developed in collaboration with the national arts foundation Pro Helvetia, supported by the Association internationale des critiques d’art: Section suisse (AICA), and is run by Daniel Morgenthaler and Aoife Rosenmeyer. Daniel Morgenthaler is the Curator of Helmhaus Zurich and the author of numerous articles for exhibition catalogues and magazines, such as Züritipp, Kunst-Bulletin, Du and Apartamento. Aoife Rosenmeyer is an independent curator, translator and critic, a.o. for Art Monthly, Art Review, Art Agenda, Art in America, Frieze and Kaleidoscope. Both live and work in Zurich. For the contributors of this symposium they prepared and moderated a workshop (including a video contribution by artist Tom Menzi) which will be summarized for the symposium’s audience during the concluding discussion of the event.

The Dhaka Art Summit is an international non-commercial research and exhibition platform for art and architecture related to South Asia. It seeks to re-examine how we think about these art forms in a regional and wider context, with a focus on Bangladesh. Led by Chief Curator, Diana Campbell Betancourt, local and international guest curators unlock new areas of inquiry through collaborative group exhibitions, experimental writing initiatives, film and talks schedules. Founded in 2012 by the Samdani Art Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh the Summit’s interdisciplinary programme is hosted every two years at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Free for all and ticketless, the fourth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit, will be held from the 2 to 10 February 2018. A co-convener to this symposium, Diana Campbell Betancourt co-edited (with Katya García-Antón and Antonio Cataldo) the Dhaka Art Summit 2016 and Critical Writing Ensembles, a two-volume set of books co-published by Mousse Publishing, the Samdani Art Foundation, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and Pro Helvetia, and with contributions by Belinder Dhanoa, Mike Sperlinger and Mustafa Zaman, among others. She is also on the editorial board of The Exhibitionist.

Belinder Dhanoa is a writer and artist. She holds an MFA in Art Criticism from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU, Baroda, and another MA in Visual and Cultural Studies from the University of Rochester, New York. She has written books for children published by the National Book Trust, and two novels Waiting for Winter and Echoes in the Well, and she is the author of the dramatic script for 409 Ramkinkars, a sculpture installation and theatre performance by Vivan Sundaram and the Vivadi Group. She has also researched and documented Contemporary Art in Baroda, and more recently edited the volume The Body in Indian Art and Thought, a book which accompanied the exhibition of the same name in Brussels, and now at the National Museum, Delhi. Dhanoa is currently Visiting Professor of Literary Arts at the School of Culture and Creative Expression at the Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is currently researching and writing a book on the Kasauli Art Centre, a multidisciplinary art space that was active in the last three decades of the 20th century. Dhanoa lived and worked in the US and UK for twenty years, and returned to India some years ago. In Zurich, she will share her rich and diverse insight into the intersections of art and writing in a lecture to this symposium.

Ellinor Landmann is editor for culture at the Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) who lives and works in Basel. She studied German language and literature, art history, and theatre studies in Bern. After early journalism for various local newspapers she started working as an art critic for the Swiss Radio (DRS) in 2002. Since 2004 she has been an editor at DRS 2 with a focus on theatre ; since 2013 her focus is visual art. Landmann’s lecture for this symposium will expand the usual limitation of discussions on art criticism to printed matter towards the particular possibilities of radio reviews.

Julia Moritz is an art historian and curator with a focus on experimental public programming and education, which she has organized for Kunsthalle Zurich during the last three years, including this symposium.

The Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) is a non-profit foundation created by the Norwegian Ministries of Culture and of Foreign Affairs in 2001 aiming to foster dialogue between art practitioners in Norway and the international arts scene, and support Norwegian artists in their activities around the world. As a result OCA’s discursive, exhibition, publication, residency and visitor programs focus on bringing to Norway the plurality of practices and histories, as much as they are concerned with actively participating in artistic debates nationally and internationally. Since early 2014, art historian and curator Katya García-Antón is the Director of OCA. With previous engagements at The Courtauld Institute of Art, BBC World Service (Latin American Broadcasts), Museo Nacional Reina Sofía Madrid, ICA London, IKON Birmingham and as Director of Centre d’Art Contemporain (CAC) Genève, she is responsible for more than 70 exhibitions of art, architecture and design of practitioners worldwide. In Switzerland, she conceived the foundational concept for the current two-year program on critical writing for Pro Helvetia, and acts as a co-convener of this symposium.

Pro Helvetia is a public-law foundation which promotes Swiss arts and culture with a focus on diversity and high quality. As the Swiss Confederation’s cultural promotion institution, it supports projects of national interest. Its Visual Arts department is committed to raising international awareness of contemporary art made in Switzerland, supporting exhibitions, events and publications in the fields of art (including photography and media art), architecture and design. In cooperation with foreign cultural institutions – as has been the case for this symposium as well as Pro Helvetia’s previous engagement in critical arts writing – it facilitates exchange between Swiss art practitioners and colleagues from around the globe. The collaboration with Dhaka Art Summit e.g. was initiated by Chandrika Grover Ralleigh, Head of Pro Helvetia New Delhi. Since late 2005, art historian, filmmaker and cultural manager Marianne Burki is Head of Visual Arts at Pro Helvetia. A frequent author in the field of contemporary art herself, Burki initiated and, assisted by Patrick Gosatti, co-organized this symposium.

PROVENCE, founded in 2009, is a multi-faceted editorial project based in Nice, France. The last title Issue C – Criticism Now of PROVENCE’s eight-issue cycle has been launched n Vienna earlier this month. This issue is described as “an A–Z compendium on contemporary art criticism championing in its own way the format of monumental coffee table books with titles such as Painting Now, Sculpture Now, Vitamin P or the like, filling the gap of the not yet published large scale photo book dedicated to the art-critic.” Get your copy at the Swiss launch convivially concluding this symposium. PROVENCE Issue C has been compiled by Tobias Kaspar and Hannes Loichinger. Institutions such as Kunsthalle Zürich, The Artists Institute, Artists Space, Kunstverein Düsseldorf, Kunsthaus Glarus and others have presented and exhibited PROVENCE. Tobias Kaspar is an artist based in Riga. Hannes Loichinger is a PhD candidate at Leuphana University Lüneburg, based in Hamburg and Vienna.

Writer and curator Mike Sperlinger is currently Professor of Writing and Theory at the Academy of Fine Art, KHiO, Oslo. He studied English Literature and Aesthetics & Art Theory, and in 2006-07 was a Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. His main field of interest is writing and publishing by visual artists, and in particular those textual practices which have undermined the distinction between artwork and critical commentary. He has himself written for many journals and exhibition catalogues, including Afterall, Art Monthly, Dot Dot Dot, Frieze, Radical Philosophy and Texte zur Kunst, and is the editor of several books, including Here is Information. Mobilise – Selected writings by Ian White (2016). He is currently editing an anthology of the 1970s artists' journal TRACKS. He has also worked extensively as an editor, including issues of Will Holder’s eclectic journal of writing and art FR David; and, together with the artist Christian Flamm, a critically-acclaimed fanzine (Foxtrot Echo Lima Tango, 2010) about the 1980s British band Felt. In 2002 he co-founded the moving image agency LUX where he was assistant director for more than a decade. You Might Also Like is the preliminary title of Sperlinger’s keynote lecture to this symposium which will try to imagine alternative trajectories for the art review, beyond the rhetorics of crisis, in relation to other fields like film and literature.

Trained as a printmaker in Dhaka, Mustafa Zaman soon veered into multidisciplinary and multimedia conceptual art, turning his attention to the contemporary human condition which he often observes in relation to the instruments of power: the medicalization of the body and the established grids of knowledge manifest in modernity’s art- and life-making. In the late 1990s Zaman started contributing art reviews to Observer Magazine, then joined The Daily Star in 2002, and worked in the scope of a feature writer for Star Weekend Magazine for three years on   subject matters including art, literature and politics. He has contributed numerous art reviews and articles on major Bangladeshi artists to a number of vernacular dailies including Bhorer Kakoj and Prothom Alo. Mustafa is now editor of Depart, a magazine launched in 2010 and is focused on contemporary art from South Asia with special emphasis on the emerging art scene of Bangladesh. He has also written numerous prefaces to exhibition catalogs of major Bangladeshi artists and has curated workshops and exhibitions, such as DeReal by Bahram (2013), a rickshaw painter who crossed over to mainstream art. Hence, highly fluent in “speaking local” Zaman’s presentation at this symposium steers us towards translations for “the global”.