The Spring Salon Catalogue: An Experiment in Art Criticism

Recently, I was asked to judge the annual Springville Museum of Art Spring Salon. The contest has taken place for nearly 90 years, with over 2,000 annual submissions exclusively from full-time artists.

Cover for the First Annual Spring Salon Critical Catalogue.
Cover for the First Annual Spring Salon Critical Catalogue. (We based the design on the official catalogue for 1874 Salon for the Société des Artistes Français, also known as the Paris Salon.)

For a full PDF catalogue, click below:

I thought it would be fun to create a nineteenth-century-style critical catalogue for the event, in the tradition of the catalogues that used to be made for the Paris Salons. So, I teamed up with a good friend and thoughtful writer, Philipp Malzl, to write on selected works from the contest. Neither of us have worked as critics before. But, we don’t know about any models for the kind of art criticism we would like to see.

Each review is brief–some are a sentence, others three paragraphs. Our intent was to create something readable and entertaining for a large audience–artists and non-artists–and not for an elite audience. At the same time, we wanted to educate by tying contemporary art into a larger tradition that is often ignored or not understood by many contemporary artists and critics who only know art as far back as the beginning of the twentieth century.

I haven’t sent it out to many people yet. This is what I would consider a “preliminary draft.” I wold be very interested in knowing what you think about it.

I don’t know if anyone else is doing anything like this right now, especially for contemporary art in the classical tradition. If this catalogue is truly insightful, I hope it is the first of many.

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