Julian Stallabrass, The Art of Criticism

Julian Stallabrass. Photo: Aesthetica Magazine
Julian Stallabrass. Photo: Aesthetica Magazine

Julian Stallabrass is a British art historian, art critic, writer, photographer, curator, and teacher. He received his education at the Leighton Park School and the New College of Oxford University, where he studied PPE. He is a professor at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London. He is on the editorial boards of Art History and the New Left Review.

Viewpoint and Interests

 Julian Stallabrass - High Art Lite 1999. Image: Amazon.com
Julian Stallabrass – High Art Lite 1999. Photo: Amazon.com

Julian’s viewpoint focuses on the effects of politics, economics, and globalization on new media and contemporary art. He lectures on modern and contemporary art, including political aspects of the globalized contemporary art world, post-war British art, the history of photography, and new media art.

His works as a researcher and teacher are centered on modern and contemporary art. He is interested also in the biennial scene, the history of photography, the globalization of art, and new media art.

Julian is an art curator with a strong interest in the relationships between art and political issues. He has written extensively on contemporary art (including Internet art), photography, and 20th-century British art history.

More recently, she has worked in documentary photography, film, and video, and in themes such as the representation of war, and populism in contemporary art and politics.

His work

He is the author of Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture, Verso, London 1996. This was his first book and dealt with aspects of visual mass, popular culture, street art, amateur photography, and computer games.

In 1999 he published High Art Lite. The theme of this book was the work and influence of the British Young Artists movement. This text is still present in British art criticism as the only serious, critical, and analytical work of the subject. It was the point of much controversy at its launch, as Julian was very critical of the Young British Artists movement.

Julian coined a term as a derogatory synonym for the acronym YBA. In his own words: “As the art market revived [in the early- to mid- 1990s] and success beckoned, the new art became more evidently two-faced, still looking to the mass media and a broad audience but also to the particular concerns of the narrow world of art-buyers and dealers. To please both was not an easy task. Could the artists face both ways at once, and take both sets of viewers seriously? That split in attention, I shall argue, led to a wide public being successfully courted but not seriously addressed. It has left a large audience for high art lite intrigued but unsatisfied, puzzled at the work’s meaning and wanting explanations that are never vouchsafed: the aim of this book is to suggest the direction some of those answers might take and to do so in a style that is as accessible as the art it examines.”

In 2002 Julian wrote Paris Pictured with the Royal Academy. This story is about the rise and fall of street photography in the city. About the conditions for its flourishing in relation to leftist politics and regulated development.

Internet Art 2003 was the first book on the role of art within the network of networks and examined the challenges it presented to the art world and conventional critical discourse.

In 2004 he published Art Incorporated which analyzed the globalization of the art world and the place of art in contemporary culture and society. It has been translated into six languages. This work was subsequently published and updated as Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction in 2006.

Last years

Julian Stallabrass – Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction, 2004. Photo: Amazon.com

He was the curator of the exhibition Art and Money Online at the Tate Britain in London in 2001 and at the Brighton Biennale of Photography in 2008. He is also a member of the editorial board of Art History, New Left Review and Third Text, and member of the advisory board of Visual Culture in Britain.

In 2008 Julian curated the Brighton Biennale of Photography, Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images. It featured nine contrasting exhibitions of war photography. Materials from the exhibitions and essays on the subject and interviews with the photographers were later collected in the book, Memory of Fire (Photoworks, 2013).

More recently, he has worked in documentary photography, film and video, especially in the representation of war. He has also been researching populism in contemporary art and politics. He is the writer of short essays and art reviews for many publications, Withing them are Bazaar Art, Artforum, Texte zur Kunste, and the London Review of Books. In addition to that, his photography has been exhibited and published internationally.

He is currently involved in the Inside Out Festival discussing how value is created in the contemporary art world. The Inside Out Festival was held from October 19-25, 2009, and was organized by the LCACE (London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange). http://www.lcace.org.uk.

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